Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Misfits & Motorcycles

I don't care how cool you think you are. You can amass experience and skills and graduate degrees and big-ticket toys all you want -- sooner or later you're going to find yourself someplace where you don't have a prayer of fitting in. I'm convinced of this.

A personal example. Last Saturday I slipped on black shoes from Aldo, dark denim jeans from Express, and a gray wool and cashmere topcoat from Banana Republic (cool outfit, right?) and went with my brother-in-law and his dad to look at motorcycles. Perhaps you see where this is going.

I know nothing about motorcycles. Nothing. Never even sat on one. I'm a little scared of the things if you must know the truth. So we walk into this tiny chop shop set up in some guy's dirty garage and the eight-year-old girl contentedly playing with tools behind the counter stops for a puzzled moment and gives me a once-over. She knows. Fleeing her accusing eyes, I step into the shop to stand amid all the burly men and bike parts while they talk of things beyond my understanding and judge me silently. I don't even try to contribute. Even the slobbering black lab smells my fear.

Our journey continues at the local Harley Davidson dealership where my apparel draws stares like a Terrell Owens' Cowboy jersey at an Eagles playoff game. My pulse quickens and I try to assume an air of confidence, but I'm definitely not wearing the right color scheme, a blue denim button-down, short leather jacket, boots, or a suitable hat, never mind the fact that I'm not talking loudly to any of my "buddies" and am clearly missing visible tattoos. Fortunately, some old-time players from the glory years of the Philadelphia Flyers are there signing autographs, so I'm simultaneously confronted by two different fanatical groups with whom I have nothing in common.

It's then I realize I don't care. I don't care if don't fit in at a Harley dealership. It doesn't bother me that I don't know how to build a motorcycle. It doesn't even bother me that I don't know how to ride one. Sure, there are skills I'd like to learn. There are things and experiences I'd like to pursue. But I'm not desperate to prove myself to everybody, as if that were even possible.

Of course, I say all this having amassed neither much experience, many skills, or any graduate degrees, and the biggest-ticket toy to my name is a well-worn and handsomely aged Toyota Corolla that's traveled the approximate equivalent of seventeen times around the world (impressive, I know), so you have my permission to take my words with a grain of salt.

Maybe you're a New York Times best-selling author, four-star general, Noble Prize-winner, and three-time Olympic gold medalist who once summited Everest on a solo climb without oxygen and now practices medicine in AIDS-ridden African countries for a global nonprofit organization between touring with your rock band, managing your gourmet restaurant chain, and selling your original artwork which, sadly, you haven't had much time for lately because you've been writing/directing/starring in several Oscar-nominated films. If so, that really is impressive. Still, how would you fare in a Harley shop?


Kylen said...

I am just discovering your new blog and I found that Harley dealership anecdote especially amusing, especially considering how terribly comfortable I feel in said environment. Never fear. Embrace. Its an exciting world out there.