Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rockmoto Blog #5 - "The Classroom"

We now return you to your previously scheduled programming. Rockmoto blog #5

February 24, 2009

Last night was the classroom part of the MSF certification course. Our teachers were Amanda and Erika who together founded the Westside Motorcycle Academy 3-1/2 years ago. I’d met Erika once socially and it was good to see a familiar face. As she took attendance she stumbled over my name, but when she saw me raise my hand, recognition hit her face and she called out “Oh! Hi. How are you?” People stared. Great. I’m no longer anonymous. I don’t want special treatment. I just want to get through this like any other person.

Not that everyone here’s a Harley rider who’d have stomped on my glasses in elementary school, but I’m guessing Teacher’s Pet status doesn’t get you very far in the moto world (Check me out writing “moto” instead of motorcycle. I have little idea if people really do that, but I’m either starting to fit in or I’m sounding like an idiot dilettante poser.)

I was distracted at the beginning of my classroom because I had to leave work early at my relatively new job. I didn’t have a chance to tell the boss in the morning because there was a crisis afoot and when I stepped out he wasn’t all that happy. I kept trying to shake the thought that I’d just jeopardized my job, but it was a serious distraction all night.

The class was in the community room of the Westside Pavilion on Pico. I didn’t know they HAD community rooms there. It was a little tricky to find – hidden behind the food court. I got to the parking lot 15 minutes early, as suggested, but I didn’t get into the classroom 'til 5 minutes before 4PM and almost every seat was taken. These people were serious about this. No one’s on time in LA and I was nearly late at 5 minutes early.

It was a diverse group, which is nice to see in LA. I’m not sure if I fit in, but it was so mixed, anyone might have felt the same way. There were folks from other countries. Black, White, Asian, Latino, male, female, the works. The composition felt much more diversified than any place I’ve ever worked. It was somewhere between an Obama campaign headquarters and The Forum. There was also a similar excitement and nervousness just like in those communities too.

It was a group of 72 people broken into tables of 7-8 and the first thing they had us do was introduce ourselves to our table and say why we were taking the class. Some people had been riding for a while, but wanted to get their license finally (after holding a permit and then failing the test at the DMV which is supposed to be a real bitch). Others had ridden on the back of a bike and were bit by the bug, so they were going the next step. There was one couple at our table (Jack and Ali) who decided to learn to ride together instead of taking dancing lessons. Very cute. And when it was my turn, I timidly slipped in that my girlfriend already rode, so I was just trying to catch up. To that an “I-work-out-ever-day-at-the-gym-so-I’m-gonna-wear-a-really-tight-T-shirt-to-go-with-my-trendy-stubly-beard” actor asked if I’d ridden on the back of the bike with her. Before I was able to mention her bike has no back seat, a Lebanese guy at the end of the table said, “You can’t ride bitch to your girl, man”.

And indeed I haven’t. But it’s a concern. Ever since Natalie Portman refused to “ride bitch” to Zach Braff in “Garden State”, ‘riding bitch’ has been a serious danger out there…for any man whose girlfriend rides.

I’m pretty darn secure with my masculinity, but I have to admit, dating a Moto coach has tested that. I happily admit to being a massage therapist, opera composer, and avid cook only because I’ve every confidence in my love for women. But when my girlfriend rides over 100mph and puts her knee down, and I can’t EVEN ride bitch to her, it does make me feel like less of a man. My roommate shakes his head at my inability to appreciate how wicked her skills are. So you’ll understand how I felt as we’re filling out forms, when Amanda, the other instructor, comes over to my table.
“Is Jessica’s boyfriend here?” (Dude, that’s like just being someone’s “wife’.) Oddly, the guy to my right says yes.
“David! Great to meet you.”
“I’m not David,” he says. Confusion abounds. Apparently his girlfriend’s name is Jessica as well. I pipe up.
“I’m David.”
“Oh. Great to meet you. Are you excited for this? I think I’m gonna be teaching with Jess this weekend. Have fun.”
She leaves. Everyone looks at me for a moment. My cover is blown. Bad enough my girlfriend rides. Now they know she’s the freakin’ teacher. “How’d she end up with a 4-wheeler like me?” That’s what I fear they’re all thinking. Luckily, no one comments on it further and it’s down to business.

The course is thorough, well presented and flies by. There are decent videos, question and answer sections to keep us awake and breaks every hour. We cover everything from proper turning strategy to the greatest cause of accidents (alcohol, alcohol, alcohol)

Five hours later I take the written test. 50 questions. I need to answer 40 right. I’m terrified. I’ve taken so few tests in the last 15 years that my Princeton education seems irrelevant. I’m just out of practice. And I wasn’t listening as well as I could. I was marking up my notebook, cross-referencing which answer was on which page, to the point where I wasn’t really reading. I’d have done better if I’d just read the training book cover to cover. I’m so nervous I finish the test before anyone else hands theirs in, so I start going back over my answers figuring I must have done something wrong. It seemed deceptively simple, and I couldn’t take the risk to screw this up. So I went back over every question.

Perfect score. NO great accomplishment, but certainly a great relief. Next stop… Mounting my hog.

That came out all wrong. I have to stop talking like I’m in the lifestyle. Hmm. In fact, I think ‘The Lifestyle’ means something different altogether. I’ll just shut up and ride.

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