Yesterday, I went shopping for bike tools in Arequipa. I was told there was a large market someplace around Avenida Venezuela, so that’s where I headed. It’s a large, busy street, and Lucy the Bike is my only worldly possession, so I felt a tad antsy leaving it parked there, exposed and unlocked. Luckily, there was a cheerful elderly man washing car windows there, and we struck a deal – he’d watch Lucy for a few soles.
Unfortunately, the market, while huge, colorful and all sorts of entertaining, had no bike tools, and I needed to think of something else. As I walked back to the bike and stood there googling Arequipa’s tool options on my phone, I noticed a guy on a KTM rolling by. I smiled and nodded. KTM guy hit the brakes.
“What’s up?”, – he asked, stopping and removing his helmet.
“I need some tools for the bike. Are there any moto shops around?”.
The KTM Guy didn’t hesitate for a minute. “Follow me”, – he said, and we took off weaving in and out of Arequipa’s busy traffic. Tommy led me to yet another marketplace, dedicated entirely to parts and tools. Engines, cow fence posts, crowbars, saws, wrenches, nuts and bolts and screwdrivers and all kinds of other magic stuff was in abundance, and, thanking Tommy, I set out on my mission to find the wrench set and tire irons that I needed.
The motorcycle community is awesome that way. We see each other on two wheels, and we instantly decide we’re good people. We notice other riders and we think, oh hey there, motorcycle person, I’m going to assume you’re cool. We meet motorcyclists and we instantly make a decision to be open to them, to hear what they have to say, to be friendly and kind to them, to help them, to go for coffees or beers, to patch their tires and buy their books, to lead them to tool shops, to donate gear if they are in need, to bring down parts, to share routes and tips, to cheer them on. We see another rider, and we immediately make up our minds to listen to them even if they have weird stickers or funny hair or different political views or are older or younger than us, even if they don’t speak our language well – or at all – and we are prepared to cut them slack, lots and lots of slack, before we decide what we think of them, and whether we can be friends.
The motorcycle community is awesome that way. Assume the best first. Say hello. Shake hands. Share what you can. Maybe even ride together for a little while. Then, and only then, form an opinion, and even when that opinion isn’t favorable, you’ll still think – well, okay, but at least they ride.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we didn’t need motorcycles for this? What if we did this with all the people we met, not just riders?
Tommy helped me find the tool place because I was on a bike. I trusted Tommy to follow him to another part of town because he was on a motorcycle.
But there are plenty of perfectly horrible people on motorcycles, too.
The motorcycle itself is not a factor or cause for kindness, generosity, friendliness, or openness.
It’s simply something we know and recognize instantly. I might not trust Tommy the Random Peruvian Guy, but I’m very likely to trust Tommy the KTM Guy. Even though it’s still the exact same Tommy.
What if we just recognized each other, bike or no bike?
What if we saw other human beings and immediately thought, oh, hello, fellow human, I’m going to assume you’re good people. What if we noticed other folks and instantly decided to be open to them, to hear what they had to say, to be friendly and kind to them and help them, to go for coffees or beers, to share what we can, and to support and cheer them on? What if we saw another human and we immediately made up our minds to pay attention, even if they looked odd or hated frappes or thought the Earth was flat or didn’t speak our language – what if we were prepared to cut them slack before we decided what we thought of them and whether we could be friends?
“The motorcycle community is special”, “no wonder you’re great, you ride a motorcycle!”, “riders are a different kind of people”, “the adventure motorcycle community is awesome”. Sound familiar? Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree.
Thing is, though, if somebody took our bikes away, we’d be the same people.
We wouldn’t magically transform into a bunch of anti-social jerks just because motorcycles were gone. Maybe we’d take up surfing, or cycling, or bird watching, or that weird sport where you sort of massage the ice to get a rock into a bullseye.
And we’d then sing accolades to the awesomeness of the surfing, cycling, bird watching, or curling community.
And we would assume the surfers and the cyclists, the birdwatchers and the ice masseurs were instantly cool people.
I wonder what would happen if we thought that about everyone just because they’re human.