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Almost Fiction: Being Cool

By Sam Jones

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Being cool is hard work. No, that’s not right. Some guys are cool without really trying. It is the trying to be cool that is hard work.

A kid in grammar school wanted a new bicycle. He wanted a red bicycle, a shiny new red bicycle, a shiny new red bicycle with fringe on the handlebars and if he had that, he would be cool.

What he got was a used bicycle with worn-out tires, and was told to fix it up. He did but he wasn’t cool. The neighborhood kid who lived down the street had a shiny new red bicycle and he was cool without even trying.

In high school being cool had little or nothing to do with owning a bicycle. Now it was all about impressing girls, and to do that you had to be on the football team and wear a varsity letterman’s jacket. So our friend got on the team and even earned a varsity letter. But he wasn’t the star; he wasn’t the hero that threw the touchdown pass; he was a second-string backup and again not cool.

In college he was just one of the myriad of students without a car who wandered around campus on a bicycle looking for the library. When he got the courage to ask out girls his attempts went something like this: “Hi, my name is Sam (or whatever; fill in the blank). We have a class together,” or, “I’ve seen you around campus (wait for response). There’s a movie house on campus that shows classic old black-and-white flicks. This week they’ve got a great Bogart and Bacall movie, ‘To Have and To Have Not’ playing. Would you like to go with me?”

Occasionally girls would say yes. “OK, when will you pick me up?”

That was the killer… “I don’t have a car. We could walk. It’s just across campus. Or, I have a bicycle.”

With an approach like that you can imagine the success rate. However, he kept trying and once in a while a bored coed took pity on him and agreed to a date with the intent of overhauling him as a Home Economics project.

Three times, without explaining about the lack of a car, he just showed up on the date with the bicycle. Once they walked across campus as he pushed the bike. Once the girl just slammed the door in his face. And once the girl decided to throw caution to the wind and rode on the cross bar as he pedaled her to the movies. But it had been snowing and they hit an icy spot, fell, and she broke her arm.

With only a bicycle, it was very hard to be a cool freshman.

As a sophomore he had enough tuition money for another two semesters. But with his return he noticed the advent of scooters and baby motorcycles of all varieties. Rather than plunk down all his money for both semesters, instead he paid for one and bought a used Vespa with the rest.

He still wasn’t cool, upperclassmen with cars, shiny, new, red, sports cars, were cool but with the Vespa he was… practically… nearly… maybe… sort-of… almost… semi-cool with a strange European flavor. He affected a fake accent and started wearing a beret. In time he polished up his approach and a few coeds accepted rides on his Vespa and appreciated old black-and-white flicks. “Ciao, baby.”

In his junior year he met an old man with a classic Harley-Davidson sidecar rig. The man showed him a scrapbook, which documented with photos and comments hundreds of ladies, women of all ages, who had ridden in his sidecar. Seeing the potential, our hero sold the Vespa and bought the classic rig.

“My sidecar has a luggage rack and a wicker basket. If you bring the sandwiches we could go for a picnic.” Women love sidecars, and no coed could refuse a ride. He may not be cool, but he was doing alright.

That was a thousand years ago. He now lived across a manmade lake from a gated community for old people, one of those places with individual condo-type private dwellings which allow you to live by yourself, cook for yourself, or if you preferred there was a center where meals were served, board and card games were played, yoga and Pilates were practiced, karaoke was sung, trips and excursions were planned and every week or so there was a get-together dance.

One day, at the supermarket, he met a very forward woman. “I’ve seen you here before,” she said. “Do you live in the neighborhood? I live in the gated community.”

“Yes, I do. As a matter of fact I sold your developer the property which is now your man-made lake. I live on the other side in the little house off by itself.” He motioned off in the distance.

“Well, isn’t that interesting. We’re neighbors.” And with that he was invited to dinner and a dance.

Cutting quite a distinctive persona, he showed up in a suit and tie, piloting a sidecar rig.

Several resident ladies approached the sidecar asking questions and begging for rides. Of course, to be polite, he accommodated them with a genteel tour around the center and up and down the small streets.

His date was the last to ask for a ride. “Do you want a real ride to show your friends?” “Yes! Please!” They made a loop around the center and on the first pass he elevated the sidecar with a sidecar wheelie. They cut quite a sight as she simultaneously squealed, giggled and waved to her envious girlfriends.

It is true that if you want to be inconspicuous you don’t ride a sidecar rig. This was never truer than in a gated old folks community.

During dinner and the dance he received secretive invitations from several other ladies for future events, which contained veiled sexual overtones. After a certain age women realize time is short and they become quite aggressive, especially when they outnumber men eight to one.

After the dance his date invited him back to her place for a drink and when she slipped into something more comfortable, he was invited to spend the night.

It’s not easy being cool and he still wasn’t. However, he and his sidecar were in the right place at the right time. Maybe that is just as good.

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