In a way, though, I have to thank him. Without his eruption of monumentally inconsiderate racket, I may well have never gathered the courage to address the matter of aging, pudgy dudes on Harleys who seem to relish motoring the streets of Meridian with as much disruptive din as you can get out of 96 cubic inches and straight pipes. Understand, it's not that I'm chicken. But for 40 years—ever since I saw Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern in that movie about wild motorcycle gangs—I've sort of had it in my head that it's not exactly prudent to call bikers "assholes."
Not to mention all those stories about how vicious and brutal real bike gangs could be—how the Hell's Angels stomped a man to death at a Stones concert and how they almost stomped Hunter Thompson to death and how they would stomp a feller to death just for looking at them cross-eyed. And way back then, I decided that if I ever got my own opinion column, I would stick to insulting Republicans and racists and religious nuts, and that I would stay away from insulting big, leather-garbed guys on Harleys. Excuse me all to heck if you think that decision was cowardly, but everyone has to pick their fights in life, that's a given. And I chose to pick fights that didn't involve sprocket chains and leaded pool cues.
But gradually, over the 40 years since the salad days of the motorcycle thugs, other things have come to frighten me more than big, leather-garbed guys on Harleys. Too much noise, for instance. I am terrified by the thought of having the remainder of my life cluttered with a steady curse of nerve-twisting, noxious and largely unnecessary noise. Of having to forever put up with slack-jawed teenagers in cars vibrating with the grinding thump of their slack-jawed music. Of having to put up with the blatant thoughtlessness of cell phone blabbers blabbing in public places. Of having to put up with all the screech and clamor that comes when your hometown doubles in size every five years.
Much of it is unavoidable, I realize that. For instance, when city streets are clogged with insatiable consumers who think they have to spend hours a day driving from strip mall to strip mall in search of God-Knows-What-It-Is they don't already have, there's bound to be the constant hum of rubber meeting road. And I suppose emergency vehicles have no choice but to hit every bell and whistle, siren and horn, just to get those zombies to wake up and get out of the way.
Or the construction ... I mean, how are we going to open up a new strip mall every week without plenty of construction? And you can't have lots of construction without lots of noise, we all know that. Gravel trucks grinding gears at every intersection, backhoes clanging about, cement mixers rumbling through the neighborhood ... it all goes with living in a municipality whose leaders never met a developer's proposal they didn't like.
So I get it: We can't have a thriving, growing, slack-jawed brat-friendly community without considerable noise to go along with it. What I don't get is why some people actually go out of their way to be obnoxiously loud—referring specifically to those aging, pudgy dudes on Harleys.
And aren't there a lot of them anymore? More than there ever used to be, it seems to me. Are they moving here, along with everyone else from Oakland? Because there weren't that many young outlaws around Idaho 40 years ago to account for the number of over-the-hill hombres currently throttling up and down the streets of the Treasure Valley. Certainly, there have always been a goodly number of hog-owners with those decked-out, saddlebag touring bikes that look like somebody took the interior of a Cadillac and gave it its own twin-stroke engine. But those aren't the bikers I'm talking about. First of all, those people usually come in couples. Ma and Pa Electra-Glide, out for a Sunday spin. And secondly, that kind of bike apparently comes with mufflers.
Which is all I ask for ... mufflers. Yet it is my understanding that a certain breed of motorcycle aficionado is enamored with unmuffled Harleys precisely because of the racket they make. You've heard it, I'm sure ... possibly in the middle of the night as Chopper is out looking for a place to bed down since his wife kicked him out of the house for spending $20,000 on a motorcycle.
A stop at the Harley-Davidson Web site shows that I am not the only one concerned with this. Jim McCaslin, CEO of the company, has sent a message to his customers alerting them to efforts all over America to put a lid on motorcycle noise pollution. He titled his appeal, "Something We Never Want To Lose," and the first paragraph reads: "It must be primeval. The way it touches us so deeply, we must have some ancient hardwiring inside us that's a direct feed to our very core. Maybe it's some leftover evolutionary seventh sense that's triggered when we hit the ignition and fire brings our V-twins to life. Or maybe the rhythmic rumbling reminds us of some distant thundering herd. The chase is on. And our hearts automatically race not wanting to be left behind. Or our soul goes hungry."
Who am I to argue with such a poetic CEO, but I believe Mr. McCaslin has left out another—and more obvious—explanation to why his customers love that "rhythmic rumble:" could it be they simply crave attention?
Just my theory, Mr. McCaslin, but maybe these dudes have wasted so much of their lives obsessing over the motorcycles you sell them that they didn't have any time left over for doing something worthy of authentic respect. And now, the only thing they have left is to piddle around our highways and byways, making giant fart sounds with their machines.
But hey ... please ... to all you Harley studs out there ... don't take anything I've said personally. I'm too old to be stomped to death, and from the looks of it, you're too old to do the stomping.