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Blog > April 2012 > But, isn't it Dangerous?

But, isn't it Dangerous?

But, isn't it Dangerous?

By Brady Steffl

           A five-year-old boy walked up to me a few years back, his face gripped in seriousness. He looked up at me and said, “Brady, motorcycles are dangerous!” This fact, I'm sure, was recently revealed to him by his grown ups, and of course, it's true. I couldn't help but laugh as I told him, “Yes, they are.”
I wasn't laughing at him – I imagine I laughed like Santa Claus would laugh (if he were real, of course) if the boy had asked him “Is Christmas Busy?” In spite of my levity, the boy remained level, curious, and asked, “Then why do you do it?” He was very serious, his face bunched tight in the confusion only experienced by children who are trying to understand the paradox of adulthood. The confusion stemming from the beginnings of logic – It's dangerous. I'm not supposed to do dangerous things. Why do you do it? He might as well ask the big man in the red suit the same question, or ask it of their parents why they pretend he's real (particularly since this was at a Jewish school). Why do you do it?
           The fat man needs to leave presents as much as zombies have to eat brains and politicians have to lie. It's what makes them who they are, it's what fills their lives, it's in their nature – just as it was in the nature of this child's parents to be concerned and to teach him how to be safe.
I should clarify how enigmatic this is. Most kids upon seeing my motorcycle have a different response (even to my '78 Honda, which looks like it was stored in an Iranian mine field for 20 years.) Their eyes bulge out of their little faces - as if suddenly injected with CO2, and their chins drop to their chests uncontrollably like they've retreated to infancy for the chance to drool on themselves. They absolutely love it, and they loved it even more when I would I pop them into the saddle and hold them in place – splayed like superman in flight, chest on the tank and reaching for the controls. This sent them into ecstatic joy (the boys, anyway) causing them to poop skittles in delight for the next 15 minutes. The same thing happens to me when I enter any shop, museum or parking lot with motorcycles on display. That is in my nature.
           There's more to life than just your nature, though. It's a strange thing your nature. It's there to be embraced but also to be... controlled, mitigated – tempered. At the same time, the culture of the United States promotes celebrating your nature to the point of excess. Our advertising encourages anorexia and our stores encourage obesity. (Think cheap fatty food and electric carts.) A confusing mix. You can have either extreme. The hardest message to find is the one that endorses responsibility, moderation.
           Weight isn't the only part of the human condition the US treats strangely. As you might guess, it's our desire to be safe. I advocate safety, but I don't endorse extreme safety – culture and parenthood have changed since I was young – an inevitable side effect of time. In the 80s I was told, “Not to go in the sun for too long on the first day at the lake,” which nearly always resulted in a peeling burn. This was when SPF 8 was optional and SPF 15 reeked of overkill. In those days I roamed free in woods and nobody feared I would be eaten by a venomous bear. I even fawned over pictures those deadly two-wheeled contraptions.
We know more now, so there are more things to worry about. SPF has surpassed 60, which is still considered inadequate and often replaced (or augmented) by swimming shirt. Parasols are coming back into vogue. It's kind of like the 1920s at some beaches these days, only without the exposed shoulder. I get it. Safety. Personally, I prefer strips of gauze dipped in wax (not paraffin, because it might be carcinogenic) because It keeps the off the sun and keeps me dry (and floating) on the beach.
           Can I blame parents for being protective? No. Of course not. Can I blame people for trying to be safe? No. For being prudent? Of course not. Being safe makes sense. If you had a habit of making toast in the tub you would probably not be reading today, but, there is a fine line, and different people draw it in different places. It's summed up in a little internet gem I found a couple of weeks ago.
We avoid risks in life so we can make it safely to death.
           Now, the waters of personal philosophy and morality are dirty, turgid and confusing. There are levels of risk, and most people worry a little bit about which SPF they have and worry a lot about trying to fix breakfast in standing water. Rightly so. And, of course, there are extremes on both ends. In the Midwest “Skin Crayoning” is common enough. (No shirt, no helmet on the bike.)
           So, what is risk, what is danger? What and how much is acceptable?
I wear shorts on the beach because of (not in spite of) the sun. I like the warmth on my back, the breeze on my shoulders, hell, I like getting a tan as much as that might shock some people. But, I (try to) put on sunblock before my skin peels. I also eat potato chips. I love them – can't get enough. I can reduce a bag chips (crisps overseas) to nothing but a pile of grease (and an impending case of the trots) in under 4 minutes, and I'll do it without remorse. But, I only buy them once every other month because I know it's in my nature. A bit of moderation.
           I also like leaning into a tight curve, I like the angry growl at high revs, I like greasy hands, burns and bloody knuckles of Saturday repairs. I like motorcycles. They reach some basic part of my nature. So yeah kiddo, they're dangerous, and yes, I will continue to use them. I would prefer the wind in my hair, but I pull on my helmet before and my boots and my thick jacked before I ride. It's a compromise. I may laugh, but understand me, this is as serious as life can be. This is about understanding who you are and squeezing something out of life. It is about knowing your nature, understanding that you can be safe, but safety will only take you so far. Sometimes, you just need to lay flat on the tank and splay your arms like superman while reaching for the controls. 
Posted: 4/10/2012 10:07:44 AM | with 0 comments

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