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I was fascinated by the article in the April 2002 edition of "Buzzing" by Martin Wikner, relating his experiences with the populace at large as a result of his using a Puch Maxi for everyday transport.
He is not alone. I too suffer the glances, knowing smiles and nods and winks of people who are - in my opinion - fortunate enough to see the spectacle of a 6' 3" male riding around on a Puch Maxi wearing a large black crash helmet. Mr Wikner asks why this sight evokes such a response. It is simply because the British don't like to be different, but they enjoy seeing someone who is. There's a relief factor involved. "You wouldn't get me on a thing like that! What a clown! He must be game for a laugh!"
You know the feeling you get on a bus when you hear the immortal high-pitched cry coming up the stairs of "Has anybody seen me camel?" Your heart beats faster, and you fixedly stare through the window finding great interest in the Slagdyke Lingerie shop front that displays girdles. "Please don't let him sit next to me! I'll go to Church on Sunday." And he doesn't. He sits next to some poor party who decides to get off at the next stop and walk the remaining three miles. What a relief. The quiet smile to another passenger; everybody congratulating themselves that they've escaped.
How do you counteract this response from the public? I've tried several ways. Number One is to wear jeans and a denim shirt when riding. This purports to show that you're not really a "sad bastard" but that you're just riding it for a joke, in fact it probably belongs to someone else because nobody wearing denim would ride a machine like that. Probably a Harley owner! Number Two is to wear oil-stained overalls, this imparts to the viewers that you're actually a mechanic out on test, and of far less interest than Number One. Number Three is join in with the viewers, and catch their eye and make a circular motion with the right, hand implying that your trying to "wind it up". Excessive pedalling is another, as is bowing low over the handlebars at regular intervals. These are probably the best ways, because audience participation is another facet of the British spirit inherent in us all.
Whatever you do, you mustn't resent this response that is invoked in our fellow man. Everybody likes an eccentric and so long as it's somebody else, then that's OK. Anyway, I'm well used to it - I still drive a Marina!
First published, June 2002
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