Sunday, 10 June 2012

Aimless Riding

Next Monday, the 18th of June, is ride a motorcycle or scooter to work day. The aim of the day is to show how economical and efficient two-wheeled vehicles are for commuting in our cities and to get employers and municipalities to accommodate them.

For several years, I rode my scooter during the fair-weather months from a neigbourhood that lies west of the city to the downtown core. If I had a bad day at work I knew that, at least, I had my scooter ride home to look forward to. If I had a string of bad days I liked to joke that work was what I did between two scooter rides.

Alas, I now work more than 30 kilometres from my home and the only efficient way to get there is to take a highway - so no scooter commute anymore. That means my scooter sits in my garage all too often. Recently, I was out of town for a few days; before and after those days I was too busy with work to get out on my scooter. So Friday, a day off, I decided to do all my shopping and errands on my scooter. I was all ready to go with a backpack and carry-all bag, but my scooter was not. After more than two weeks in the garage its ageing battery had drained.

I left the battery on a charger over the weekend and reloaded it today, determined to get a ride in before another busy week. I rode all around neighbourhoods in the west end, by homes I imagined I'd buy if I won a lottery, past parks where people played sports. It felt a little strange to have no purpose. I guess I feel the same way about riding a scooter aimlessly as I do about having no work or a project or task that needs completing in my life.

Going for a walk never feels that way. It's exercise and, as the body moves through green spaces or city streets, the mind opens to contemplation. Sometimes, I return from a walk with problems that have been rattling around in my head for days all figured out. Even when I drive my car along a familiar route my mind has enough spare parts to mull over ideas.

But riding a scooter is a different thing. You need enough of your attention to stay safe that your mind stops wandering for long. I remember as a kid watching an episode of Perry Mason with my family. A crime had happened on Della Street's route to work, but when Perry asked her to recall what she'd seen she couldn't recollect anything from her drive. Perry Mason thought his secretary's amnesia was quite normal because people drive their regular routes without thinking about it. The adults in my family seemed to consider this normal, but, as a young child, it worried me deeply. Only as an adult driver myself, did I come to see the truth of the phenomenon.

That certainly is not the case with motorcycles and, to a lesser degree, with scooters. Riders need to be alert all the time to keep the bike moving, to watch out for potential dangers, to monitor their speed.

So that leaves me wondering about aimless driving. For the time being, I can't be part of the ride-a-motorcycle-or-scooter-to-work campaign - although I think it's a great idea. I will try to do all my errands around town on my scooter. But I think I will still go for aimless drives. My scooter has taught me so much already. Maybe I can let it teach me that just enjoying the ride, enjoying the moment, is all I need.

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