“Well, lookie here, a woman on a motorcycle. Bet she’s real tough.”
I was sipping coffee and snacking on a gas station breakfast that had sat under a heating lamp.
Before being verbally assaulted, my day actually started out pretty good. As I headed off, the sun rose burning orange and red into a hazy and humid morning. As it was 7am the Sunday before Labor Day, the roads and highways were empty. Foggy patches of condensed humidity hovered over low ditches, ground depressions and inside thickets of trees. The thickness of the air dampened road noise and whatever else might be stirring.
It was a serene and calm, but by the time I was having my coffee, the heat started seizing the day and the humidity was popping. Humidity and assholes with big mouths make me cranky. This guy made me cranky.
I scanned over my smarmy antagonist – white, 50s, fat, sweaty, unkempt, smoke yellowed teeth, wearing a thinning T-shirt with its arms cut off so he didn’t get armpit sweat stains, a trucker hat worn way back and unsuccessfully covering grey, balding hair in need of a cut. He, his two dopey-looking but physically imposing sons and his squat, unpleasant-looking wife had gotten out of a beaten up 80s king-kab Ford pickup truck with shot suspension and a bedful of old worn tires. The boys looked at me with something like hungry curiousity that felt slimy as they smirked at their pop’s clever statement. His wife regarded me with a glance of judgmental disgust.
Given my odds, I thought better than offering a “Tougher than you, you fat fuck.” Instead, I went for bored indifference despite the fact I managed to take in all their glory at a glance. Since he didn’t pursue it any further after exiting the gas station, I suppose it worked. But, really, I suspect he expended everything in his smart-ass remark bank account for the morning with that one statement.
My headphone battery died and I had only my thoughts to keep me company for 100 miles. So, unfortunately, I thought about that asshole and wrote part of this in my head. Except for the missing MAGA hat, this dude was that angry, white, American male who helped put Agent Orange in office.
The degree of self-entitlement one must possess to casually dole out a statement like that to a stranger at a gas station who is simply minding her own business and sipping a cup of bad coffee is galling. What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t give me that boys will be boys shit. Sorry, I don’t accept the bullshit about needing to insult a stranger to express your manhood. This is most certainly not a means of disguising your intimidation of me. Drop the act about how you just wanted to show off for your kids. Don’t you dare believe for one second your casual misogyny made you more attractive to me or your spouse.
I’ve heard all those things before from small men who willingly act like an assholes for their own gain. I’ve listened as someone else tries to explain it away with some bs about how these flawed me do these things out of fear, intimidation, anxiety, or whatever emotion poor men must hide in this society that oppresses them so.
I’m calling bullshit.
It is not about anything more complex or psychoanalytical than the poor white, male exerting his privilege to demean and talk down to people he judges less by virtue of their gender or color. That’s all. This sad specimen of a man in all his sweaty grossness said that because he thought he could. Because society deemed it acceptable. His hulking sons got the message loud and clear. They were given permission to openly examine me and objectify me. And his wife was given permission to feel satisfied that she was better because she knew her place. She wasn’t the one leaving herself wide open for ridicule.
I probably deserved it for standing there by a motorcycle, sipping coffee in public. Shit, wasn’t I asking for it out there flaunting myself and letting my freak flag fly for all to see right there at the side of the highway?
And now, I’ve said my piece. I won’t think about that greasy asshole again because there will be a future greasy asshole to take his place soon enough.
But I don’t want to end this all submerged in anger and indignation. I am happy to say, I’ve run into far more friendly and encouraging people than guys like this. So, I’d like to commit some of them to ink too.
- The couple in the Sierras who was busting their ass to serve a full house breakfast, but still took time to talk to me about riding motorcycles.
- The gentleman in Austin, NV who talked my ear off about all the cool stuff to look for along my route through Nevada. I wouldn’t have stopped to snap a shot of the Joshua Trees without him telling me about them.
- The lovely owners and staff of the Silver Cafe who marveled at my adventure and served up a mean pulled pork sandwich. Even offering me some sauce to take home (had to turn it down, no where to hold it).
- The two men outside of Zion NP who chatted with me for an hour about motorcycle adventures and motorcycles. Who didn’t mansplain anything to me as I dripped coolant down the side of my bike while trying to fill it with a coffee cup. And the woman who rode a Harley and joined in on the conversation.
- The guy on the Harley heading for Las Vegas who offered me a beer (no thanks I don’t drink on the road), a bottle of water (thanks, but I just downed 32 ounces) and, finally, I accepted a USB outlet because mine was acting up.
- The woman who mailed my GPS Spot back to me.
- The innkeeper who found me unusual, but in a good way.
- There was the amazing innkeeper in Page, NV. A woman who I could have sat with for days and talked about her own life adventures.
- The small plane pilot and Lake Powell Boat owner who was more interested in my ride and ready to buy another motorcycle. I was more interested in how one gets their pilot’s license ad where one keeps a plane (asking for a friend).
- In Navajo country, there were so many fine people who took a moment to ask about my ride, where I was going and where I was from and to wish me luck.
- Somewhere along the Utah-Arizona border there is a selfie of me with two Navajo gentlemen at a lone trading post. They wanted a picture with this bad ass motorcycle woman they met.
- The guy who was returning on a cross-country trip after delivering his son to college. He was so excited for my ride, I think he’s planning his own cross country trip right now.
- The quirky waitress in Breckenridge who told my husband and I about her upcoming trip to Italy before she moves to Casper, WY.
- The three guys who sat across the counter from me in Limon and opened the conversation with “That’s a good looking bike, what is it?”
- My favorite motel keeper in Kansas and all the fine people there who keep my mom’s grave clean and with flowers. Especially her friend who got my last minute email and came straight over to the motel to see me.
- All the people who treated me more like a person than an oddity to be openly stared at.
- All the family and friends who greeted me with open arms, housed me, fed me and put up with me along this ride.
There are so many more moments that outshine that asshole. And I feel better right now remembering them.
Happy cooking and loving one another!