Two years ago I was feeling out of shape, overweight and all my lab numbers were up. So I joined a gym. They said it was a good idea to see a doctor before working out with the big boys, so today I am talking to the doctor for the third time in 36 months. “The results of your blood work came back and it looks like all of your specifics are well within parameters. Your blood pressure is down from last time, your cholesterol figures are excellent and you’ve lost weight. What have you included in your workouts?”
“I’ve been warming up on the incline treadmill, weight lifting and they have a boxing ring so I’ve been sparring with some of the guys. Also, because I’ve been feeling good, I have dusted off my desert bike and ride it on the weekends. In two weeks I’m going to enter the veterans class of a Hare and Hound.”
“Well, the treadmill and the weights are OK, if you aren’t lifting too much weight. But the boxing, I don’t like the idea of that.”
“We’re not really boxing; we’re sparring with headgear and very heavy gloves.”
“And the motorcycle racing; I can’t condone that.”
“Doc, racing or not, I ride a motorcycle every time I leave the house.”
“For a man your age you’re in really good shape. However, at your age, just to be on the safe side we would like you to stop…”
I interrupted and cut him off at the pass. “A man my age? Regardless of my age, at any age, if I told you I was boxing and racing motorcycles you would tell me to stop. Right?” He didn’t answer.
I took the copy of my blood work, my blood pressure results and my cholesterol numbers with me and walked down to the pharmacy. My health insurance plan gives me discount prices if I use their pharmacy. Not needing a prescription but wanting some medicated powder for jock itch, some spray for athlete’s foot, a bottle of aspirin, a tube of Bengay and some condoms, I stood in line waiting my turn.
It was a long line and the woman in front of me started a conversation. “Are you riding a motorcycle?” I was carrying my helmet.
“Yes, a Harley. Actually I have several bikes but today I am on the Harley.” Thinking she was interested I continued. “Do you ride?”
“Oh no, they are much too dangerous. Once, a long time ago I rode on the back of my cousin’s motorcycle and we crashed. I had cuts and bruises all over me and my cousin was in the hospital for weeks and lost his job. We took that thing away from him and junked it, right on the spot. I’d never get on one of those foolish things again.” She spoke with the zeal of a religious preacher spouting her dogma.
Throughout the years I’d heard this story or several others just like it. I said nothing.
“You know my neighbor’s son just got a bike and he crashed it and they had to amputate his leg,” the woman continued. “Those things are so dangerous they ought to be outlawed. Did you read in the paper about the motorcycle accident…?”
I held up my hand stopping her like a traffic cop. “Are you going to tell me another tragic tale about someone’s guts smashed all over the street? If you are I would appreciate it if you showed some restraint and kept it to yourself.”
She blew through my stop sign and forced the issue. “I was just going to tell you about…”
“Lady, please; I asked you politely, I’m serious; don’t.”
“But you seem like such a nice man and I don’t want you to get hurt on those murdercycles. This guy in the news…” She started right back in.
“Lady, I am not kidding. I don’t want to hear it. Why do you impolite people think you have a responsibility to force me to listen to your accounts of maimed human beings who happened to get hurt on a motorcycle? Do you tell everyone you meet about car crashes, bus crashes, plane crashes and train derailments? No, you single out motorcycle accidents because you once fell off. You think that gives you the right to berate me with tales of blood and gore. Lady, it doesn’t.” I jumped in her face. “I’ve been riding my whole life and I have been listening to people describe motorcycle horror stories, bloody accounts of their cousins and neighbors and lady I’ve just had plenty. Keep your stories to yourself.”
“You may be a very good rider, but it’s the other guy. You can’t always tell what the other driver is going to do.” She wouldn’t be contained.
“You want to talk about dangerous; I’ll tell you what is dangerous. See that cell phone in your hand? That’s the most dangerous thing on the highway; people talking and texting while driving, multitasking. Minutes ago I saw you multitask in this line. You received and answered a text right here; I saw you do it. I’m going to venture a guess that you would do the same thing while driving on your way home. You will risk my life and drive badly just to have some stupid inane conversation. Think about it. When was the last time you had a call that was so important that it required poor driving, needed an immediate response and jeopardized a person’s life?”
“I was just saying…”
“I’ve had enough; an entire lifetime of enough. Enough of listening to the words of doom, enough of listening to someone tell me how to live my life, enough of doctors telling me what people my age should be doing and enough of people in pharmacy lines who think they have the right to tell me how to ride down the highway. I am a mature adult and without your help I am fully capable of making decisions for myself. Lady, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll keep the rest of my opinions to myself if you will do the same.”
She looked away from me and waited for her turn in line.