Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Motorcycle Driving Test

Yesterday Heather and I went to Vancouver to take our motorcycle drive test. Well, for us it was technically a scooter test. Same test. We got to the Licensing place and found the part of the parking lot where the course would be set up. A group of about fifteen guys began to gather. A few others have scooters like we do, some sport bikes, some big Harleys. We segregated into our various groups, swapping tips and asking about MPG and CC's.

These were mostly tough guy types. Except the funny thing about this experience is that they really weren't. At least not yet. These established, tough guys were sort of reduced to that awkward pre-drivers licence state of nervousness and vulnerability. With the rest of us looking on, the instructor could announce, you did not pass! You are not in the cool, tough guy club! (Since I was on a scooter I wasn't really even in the running). I loved all the nervous blustering comments. "Well, I'll go first, I'm not worried!" the first guy said with a little too much bravado. When he finished, he asked, "did I pass?" When the instructor said yes, he got this silly grin on his face like he just scored a date with the Homecoming Queen. "Not worried?" I guffawed under my breath. In the course of about an hour, we had quickly formed this little community. When someone failed, we shared in their pain. When they passed we celebrated with them.

Many didn't pass. One guy spilled his bike and got his leg caught under it. He couldn't get it off without assistance and he kept accidentally revving the engine really loudly. He said with a mixture of disappointment, shame, and maybe a little hope, "I guess that means I didn't pass." "Yeah." Was the only response the instructor could muster. We all avoided eye contact. We didn't want to share in his shame. Or maybe we wanted to save face. Whatever. He left as quickly as he could.

It was such an interesting experience because if I had seen these guys riding around in any other setting I would just assume that they were all badass dudes. But I was confronted with the awkward reality that they (read: we) were really, for the most part, just big kids wanting to play on our new toy.

I was confronted with how much of our image is really just careful branding. Try to look tough. Wear the right clothes. Drive the right motorcycle. Grow the right beard. But every so often we are awkwardly reminded of the frailty, insecurity, and vulnerability of others. And I think this shared human experience brings me comfort.

Oh...and btw Heather and I did both pass with high marks.


  1. Wess sent me here - love the story.
    It reminded me of my first motorcycle test in Oregon. I blogged it here

    the title says it all

    peggy Parsons

  2. The part where the guy was wiped out just shows why it’s important to undergo driving tests for motorcycles. We have this notion of biker dudes being big, tough guys with beards up to the floor, shades even indoors and a temper that’s short whereas the day is long. It’s nearly surprising to realize that they, too, must’ve gone through a driving test before. Congratulations to you and Heather for passing!

  3. I totally agree, Erik! The sports commentator favorite, “I don’t care who you are, that’s GOTTA hurt!” comes to mind. It doesn’t matter how big and burly or small and wiry you are; safety should always come first when riding a motorbike. That’s why it’s important to take these driving tests because passing them, while not a guarantee that you’ll be 100% accident-free on the road, means you know what to do to prevent accidents.

  4. Wow! Congratulations! I can imagine how happy you are driving your scooter now. By the way if you’re interested to buy a motorcycle, there are lots of companies offering secondhand ones, which are still of good quality and, of course, affordable. By the way, I agree with what you said. Sometimes, it really is about confidence, because when you are confident about yourself, you can do better. Our subconscious mind pushes us to be better when we know we have to. On the contrary, when we doubt ourselves, our subconscious mind pulls us down with thoughts of insecurities.

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