Tuesday, June 15, 2004

But For The Deeds Of A Few, or, Why RTW Day Is So Important

A few careers ago I had a boss who was very liberal with his "attaboys." He was always the first one to tell you that you had performed your job well. Emptying the trash without being asked would earn you an "attaboy." Restocking an item before anyone noticed the empty spot on the shelf would earn an "attaboy." Just showing up early made him happy enough to toss a few "attaboys" to the staff.

At that time, I felt very lucky to have a supervisor who appreciated my work, and I told him so. At which point, he felt obliged to spew out his memorized lecture about the "Attaboy System of Rewards." Due to space constraints, and the fact that it wasn't that funny, I'll abbreviate the lecture.

Management is fond of the Attaboy System because each individual attaboy has no commercial or monetary value. So, it stands to reason that any number of accumulated attaboys are as worthless as the first. Nothing times nothing is still nothing. In fact, the value of an attaboy only exists for the precise moment that it is issued.

Those who unwittingly try to accumulate attaboys are shortly introduced to the anti-attaboy, the "aw, shee-it." I had always been suspicious of the "aw, shee-it" so I checked with Hoyle's, where I discovered that the "aw, shee-it" is the black hole of the attaboy system. Just one tiny little "aw, shee-it" mumbled completely destroys any and all record of attaboys, regardless of where you are or whom you work for.

If you think this has nothing to do with motorcycling, think again, because the Attaboy System has embedded itself in the American Collective Unconscious.
Remember the "Art of the Motorcycle" at the Guggenheim Museum? ATTABOY!
The millions of dollars generated by the "Ride For Kids?" ATTABOY!
Matt Lauer rides onto the set of The Today Show. ATTABOY!

Yes, bunkee, Motorcycle Attaboys have been showering down on us for a few years now. And we'd been enjoying it, until along came a bunch of bikers from more than a state away who had a vendetta with some other bikers on Long Island. By the time the cops sorted it out, one biker was shot, many arrests were made, and lots of illegal stuff was confiscated. (Please note that I'm not naming names!)

The story made the front page of all the newspapers, it was the lead story on the local tv and radio news, and the anchorpeople said the words "motorcycle gang" like they were shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.

Can you say, "Aw, shee-it!?"

Now, not a motorcycle attaboy can be found anywhere from Montauk to Cape May to Bear Mountain.

In Asbury Park, the town went to court and closed up the Fast Lane Biker Magazine Swap Meet and Bike Show, costing the promoter thousands of dollars. Shortly after that, the County of Nassau presented a national charity with a bill for the SWAT team that they felt needed to be hired to protect their event. No more Long Island Motorcycle Festival, after a successful five-year run.

A few years ago, Community Board 2 in Manhattan wanted to ban motorcycles from their little corner of the island. There was a meeting, and many motorcyclists tried to explain to the politicians that all motorcyclists are individuals and that penalizing all of us because of the behavior of a few is bigoted.
Thinking about that meeting still infuriates me. These politicians and politically active citizens, in what they call the most inclusive community in Manhattan, the West Village, couldn't recognize their own prejudice, to the point of booing us out of the room.

Recently, a state tried to pass legislation to the effect that, if three or more motorcyclists were traveling together, they could be considered a "motorcycle gang" and could be stopped and searched. Thanks to politically active motorcyclists, that law was never passed.

Just once I'd like to hear the newscasters report, "A gang of mothers was stopped and questioned by police today for walking their babies in strollers down the middle of Broadway, in Nyack. The mothers wore L.L. Bean cardigans consistent with membership in so-called 'Mother's Clubs,' or 'MC's,' which have menaced the lawful driving community lately with their strollers, carriages, and specially modified baby buggies. These MC's typically claim to be recreational in nature but are known to show no respect for traffic, pedestrian rights or our Department of Highways, and we all pay higher insurance rates because of their recklessness. The mothers were searched, cited for endangerment and other moving violations, and released. Lawyers for the mothers have vowed to contest the charges."

So what's a rider to do? If any of you have a solution, I'd sure like to hear it. ATTABOY.

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