(WARNING! This is an opinion piece by MO’s Senior Content Editor and does not represent MO’s official position on anything at all.)
In these trying times for all of us, the worst part is the simply not knowing, the worrying about your loved ones, the frustration of trying to keep track of a nasty, invisible killer of hopes and dreams. Let me take this time, then, to put your mind at ease: I’m fine.
Okay, this is no time for kidding around, or is it? It is April Fool’s Day, but I’m really not in a hilarious mood. What are we talking about? Right, social distancing, the new phrase of the month. Some of MO’s salespeople had an office in LA, but I don’t think they do anymore – and as far as I know, we editorial types haven’t worked out of a central office since the beginning of the Duke era, circa 2007, when MO was acquired by the Canadian company VerticalScope.
We’re increasingly more of a loose-knit motorcycle club with an active newsletter than a real business ever since, exchanging plans and ideas via email and video conference, but really only meeting physically to go on motorcycle rides: Ever-progressing technology makes it not only possible but easy. About once a week, we spend an hour peering virtually into each others’ offices to plot our moves – bedheads, babies and all. Sharing documents for editing, images, and witty banter online couldn’t be easier thanks to Google and Dennis Chung.
My close friends and family, which number in the five or sixes, I mostly keep track of via text message. Facebook’s alright for fighting with everybody else, and our meals here consist mostly of simple peasant fare… Which is all to say, the COVID-19 has barely affected my “lifestyle” so far. We miss our ability to dine out a few times a week. Which is terrible, but it’s seriously reduced our bar tab, and having to get our food to go isn’t much like the actual suffering millions of people are going through – including the people who have to be at work to prepare it. Bless them.
We have been getting out on our bicycles a lot more lately and even our motorcycles, and when we pedal over the 22 freeway down here in Orange county, it’s stunning how many fewer cars there are, even at rush hour. If these are just essential workers commuting, it’s amazing how few of us are essential.
I mean, maybe we’re essential, but my own experience leads me to seriously question how many of us really need to be in an office every day? The ladies like the excuse to buy new shoes, and men find the office a convenient place to harass the women and drink free coffee. But now that we’re able to underbus each other remotely, why not work from home, plant a vegetable garden, and alleviate a bunch of societal problems at once? My doctor just sent instructions to reach him via video conference if I need to. Don’t come to my office!
I know I burn probably a tenth as much gas compared to when I commuted to work. It adds up. All that money you save, and all the coop-upedness you need to relieve… Since this virus thing started, we’ve been seeing lots more people out walking and riding around on their motorcycles and bicycles, including a bunch of people who live in my ’hood I’ve never seen before in the five years I’ve lived here – many of them walking fat, confused dogs. Where we goin’ again and why?
The beach authoritarians have sprung into action, pushing the idea that a wide-open place with a constant fresh ocean breeze is a terrible place to avoid an airborne pathogen. What? But they can’t keep us out of the deserts and mountains, and all those inaccessible places where we motorcycle nuts have been the only ones going for decades. It’s actually a great time to be a rider.
I really had no idea how much time I’d wind up spending plugging leaks in this 1963 house we bought five years ago. Last week I heard a mighty WHUMP while I sat at my desk I thought might be the beginning of an earthquake or Armageddon, which I then forgot about in the absence of any aftershock. But when I walked into the pantry later onto a fresh lump in the floor, I realized something in the subfloor had shifted. My first instinct was to freak and squeeze myself into the crawlspace to see what was the matter; my second instinct was to mix a large martini with three olives and get in the hot tub, which is what I went with. If I’m dying soon, I’m not gonna spend what time I have left in a crawlspace. All household projects are currently on hiatus, except the ones I enjoy. This is the first spring I’ve stuck tomato plants in the ground, then wondered if I’ll be around to eat them? Hey, let’s hop on the Burgman and ride around while they’re growing.
Whether you’re atheist or Baptist, liberal or conservative, it would be hard not to observe that COVID-19 looks a lot like nature defending herself against our human onslaught. Suddenly, because of the virus, there’s a new respect for science again, a thing motorcycle people have always understood, especially us Kevin Cameron fans. Say, ahhhh, hate to disturb you Chief, but 99% of the scientists keep insisting the planet’s going to burn up soon if we don’t find a way to quit burning so many fossil fuels.
Meh, relax. It’s baloney.
Say, ahhh, now they’re saying millions of us, especially people over 60, are going to die in the next few months if we don’t completely shut down the economy immediately and send everybody a check for $1200.
WTF?! Sounds reasonable! Let’s do it right now!
Funny how a little personal fear focuses the attention. Is anybody in Congress younger than 60? Now that we’re talking about them, and not polar bears, it’s suddenly very serious business.
If one good thing is going to emerge from this, it’s that suddenly expertise is important again. It’s been all about the CEOs for years, but now it’s the boys and girls in the lab coats in the back room, the engineers and designers, scientists and test riders that will save our bacon, if it can be saved. It’s awesome when the CEO says we’re going to build 100 new motorcycles, but without the designers, engineers, and 10,000 other educated, qualified people to execute the plan, well ahhh, I… never mind. I really didn’t mean to pick on Harley-Davidson, whose stock is now below $20.
Anyway, it’s early days. We’re on lap 3 or 4 of this 25 lapper. Our tires are warm, and all we can do now is settle in, pay attention, keep calm and smooth, and try not to get rammed by Marquez. Worst case scenario, I won’t be expected to repair anything when I go gently wheezing into that great crawlspace for good. Good luck to us, one and all, and bless all of you who are keeping the world afloat while those of us who can lay low, do. It’s nice work if you can get it.