Friday, October 23, 2009

God, Life and Everything - Scooterized

I write a biweekly column called "God, Life, and Everything" for theHudson Valley News. The title reflects the broad scope I want to take. Everything in life falls under the eye of God, and if we watch carefully, we can catch a glimpse of God in it all.

With the first flakes of snow this Fall -- yes, I saw flakes of snow! -- it’s time for me to put the scooter up for the season.

Now, when I say scooter I mean a motorscooter, like a motorcycle with a misplaced engine, undersized wheels and a shield up front to keep the feet clean.

I used to ride a motorcycle, ’78 Honda Hawk, but after a few years of not being able to get it started and letting it rot in the shed, I sold it to a guy who had it working in a week. That’s okay, somehow a priest riding a motorcycle always seemed like a strange image.

Still, I enjoy riding.

Then one day the idea hit me: get a scooter. Not for riding the highways, mind you, not for cruising but for inexpensive, efficient, practical transportation. I did not want someone pointing at me saying, “Well, that guy’s going through a midlife crisis.”

So I did my research, fully expecting to be putting around on a classic Vespa, little realizing the vast array of scooter companies out there. Soon the scope of my search widened to include Piagio, Eton, Genuine Scooter, Aprilia, Lambretta, Kymco, and of course Honda and Yamaha. Who knew?

I settled on Kymco 150 cc Super 8. It’s a cute red bike that looks like it really wants to be a motorcycle. Not just a motorcycle but hotshot bikes. Until you look at it sideways. Then you know it’s a pretender. But I love it. Powerful enough to take me on my local pastoral visits, it never tempts me to see what it can do. Just getting down from the church to the library takes a full open throttle.

One of the surprises I encountered with my scooter is the motorcycle wave. You might not know it, but motorcyclists wave to each other when they pass. Not an up-in-the-air “how ya doing?” kind of wave, but a finger pointed to the ground, very cool wave that let’s the other know they are part of a fellowship.

The surprise is that they wave at me and my scooter. You would never think of someone on a Harley or a Triumph or BMW deigning to acknowledge a scooter. Perhaps it’s merely because from the front, my Kymco does look a lot like a real motorcycle. I imagine some guy on a bit Suzuki waving to me, then giving himself a dope slap as passed and realized that, “Doh, I just waved to a scooter!”

But perhaps it’s because the two-wheeled fellowship has room for all shapes and sizes, and the fact that we’re out there is enough. It feels good to be waved at, to be acknowledged, to be accorded the respect of someone with a much bigger, much more impressive machine.

And maybe that’s the point of my scooter. It’s little, weak and insignificant -- like so many of us -- yet it does its job and brings a little joy to life, again like so many of us.

Isn’t it good to know that we who are small and of no real account matter enough to get acknowledged, too? By our families (we hope), by loved ones and friends, and most of all by God. We may not be splashy or famous or even all that well-known locally. But to receive a kind nod, or smile, or handshake -- it all matters.

It matters that we acknowledge each other in a cold and hard world. So give a wave, let someone know they’re part of an exclusive fellowship called humanity. And do so even if they are small, insignificant and just possibly a pretender. It’ll do us all some good.