Dear Deputy... | Behind Bars

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Brian Catterson

I completely understand that you’re going to give me that ticket. You took my license, registration and insurance, and now you’re handing those back to me along with a little extra piece of paper, informing me that an agent of the state officially accuses me of inappropriate behavior on public roads. I’m not going to give you any blowback about that, but spare me your canned lecture.

If you want me to listen up, hand me a warning along with your detailed opinion and I’m all ears. Safe behavior on motorcycles is a subject about which I care deeply. I promise to believe that’s what you care most about in this encounter.

Once you decide to punish me with that ticket, though, any further declamation sounds just like, “blah-blah-revenue enhancement-blah-blah-blah.”

I quit listening right about the time you said, “I would’ve given you a warning, except for _____.” You already wrote the ticket, your department is now acting as a collection agency and I can’t respect a dumb lie. Show some creativity, ferbikesake.

That scolding you’ve got all polished up for scofflaws like me? I know it by heart. You’ve got a Honda Gold Wing at home in the garage, right? You know just how it feels to “get in the wind” for that “feeling of freedom,” but you’d never ride irresponsibly (like some people do), especially not with a passenger and certainly not in this dangerous, slippery rain.

If I’m already paying to speed—and by the way, that day pass would be good until sundown in any reasonable world—why should I further reward you by letting you stupefy me with your vapors about how, sometimes, there might be gravel in these here corners? If a spot of gravel squinched your blue serge panties into a bunch, climb off your damn Wing, put the doughnut down, and go log enough dirt-riding time that three-dimensional vehicular dynamics don’t auto-deploy your insta-panic sub-routine.

Here’s a question for you, Officer: Have you ever ridden in Europe? Australia? The Middle East? I did that last year—along with a couple of Canadian provinces and half a dozen Estados Unidos (it was a slow year).

Does that sound arrogant? Even condescending? How do you think it sounds to me to be blared at by petty officialdom packing more authority than experience? Unless you’ve been riding on the street for a decade or three, you’ve got as much to teach an experienced rider as a butterbar has to teach a sergeant major.

I submit that if the guy you’re berating wears an armored suit, gray sideburns and a pair of well-scuffed riding boots older than your badge, he knows darn well he was speeding. He also probably knows something about the limits of his bike, his reflexes, his training and his experience—almost certainly more than you do. He likely has a fairly realistic handle on the vicissitudes of Fate, to boot—but is still kicking himself for failing to notice your low-profile light bar more quickly because he knows how important situational awareness is to survival.

The guy you’re little-boying also knows your “Speed Kills” mantra is hogwash. Out here in what we laughingly refer to as the “Real World,” some of us know that the most reliable reaper of riders isn’t speed. It’s mistakes: our own, mostly, followed by other peoples’. That would be why big, fast literbikes ridden by trained, experienced men have a lower rate of insurance claims than those extra-safe 600s ridden by squids on a mission. Hell, even lower than cops who ride their Gold Wings four times a year on sunny weekends and badge their way out of tickets.

I listened respectfully to your litany of the carnage and despair wreaked by us punks on motorcycles, and how I need to be careful not to ruin my life and the lives of others. I said, “Yes, sir,” in my most carefully polite tone. Hey, I don’t want you to ruin my life, either.

I even bit my tongue on delivering a safety lecture back atcha for that idiotic, no-look U-turn you pulled back there; what are you, Hazzard County Five-O? You got the courtesy of my attention to your clueless hectoring for one reason only: because you wear a gun on your hip. When I shook your hand, though, and wished you a good day and a safe patrol, that was absolutely genuine.

In between selectively applying sin taxes, I know you’ve got important things to do.

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