A girlfriend from years ago – the one who instead of toasting bread then spreading peanut butter on top to create a warm, tasty snack, would microwave the combination long enough to molecularly change the Jif Chunky into a soupy, burnt mixture of glop oozing down the sides of a rubberized slice of Wonder – mistook another person for me.
This identity miscalculation happened in the time when beepers were an affordable option to cell phones – not that I owned either. What I did own was one of the first T595 Triumph Daytonas scooting around the Central Coast of California. The Strontium Yellow three-cylinder was novel. There were only two others living in my vicinity, both of which were Strontium Yellow.
Valentino Rossi was barnstorming a path to his first GP championship in the 125cc class that year. His on-track talent and post-race sitcoms (oftentimes at Max Biaggi’s expense) had earned my fanmanship. I purchased an AGV Rossi replica helmet, not just because I was becoming a fan, but also because Aldo Drudi’s original sun & moon design was so freakin’ cool. Rossi, not being a global celebrity yet, meant the helmet, like the Daytona, was a rarity.
The combination of uncommon helmet and bike marked me as unmistakably recognizable, or so I thought.
Arriving home from a weekend motorcycle camping trip, the light on my analog phone machine was blinking with an intense luminosity usually associated with raves or weather beacons. Returning the mass of messages was easy; they were all from the peanut butter alchemist.
“I saw you,” she says in a low, seething, recorded whisper. “Saturday afternoon in Pismo Beach. You had a girl on the back of your bike.”
Positive I was 200 miles up the coast, standing around a campfire, drinking beer with a couple riding buddies on Saturday, I called and asked how she was so certain it was me who she saw.
“I recognized the bike,” she says.
Knowing that Dan, the retired banker to whom I had sold one of the other two Strontium Yellow Daytonas, lived near Pismo Beach, I ask in acid-neutralizing, alkaline tone, “Was I wearing a blue, purple and black Arai helmet?”
“Yes,” she stutters, immediately realizing her oversight.
“Do I own a blue, purple and black Arai?” I asked.
“I guess not,” she says.
No longer could I handle her sandwich torturing fetish, and so exchanged her cheating allegation for a return ticket to bachelorhood. But what I learned from the experience is that a helmet does more than protect your head – it can also save your ass.