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Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Life, Skepticism | 1 comment

The Thing vs The Idea of the Thing

I really want a motorcycle.  A Ninja 250 is a cheap, entry level bike.  It’s fast.  Looks awesome.  I love to feel the wind.  I love to have the surge of acceleration and the maneuverability of motorcycle.  I could just hop on my bike and hit the twisty mountain roads and ride for hours on just a couple of bucks worth of gas.

That’s the dream and the promise of motorcycling.  It’s a good dream, a powerful dream.  That dream of power, freedom, and open air.  Of inexpensive fun (relatively speaking).

My dad was a biker.  I’ve ridden bikes.  I’ve traveled to the mountains of Colorado and the beaches of Florida on a motorcycle.  Here’s the reality of motorcycling.

First, you need gear.  A helmet isn’t enough.  You see these morons riding with no helmet, in shorts and flip-flops.  They are utter and complete morons.  One day, they will drop that bike at speed and a concrete road will remove all of their tanned skin.  My dad had a leather coat made out (so it was claimed) elephant hide.  It weighed about 30 pounds by itself (yes, he was an extra large).  He hit an oil slick on the highway at 75, dropped the bike, and skidded over 250 yards on his back.  There wasn’t enough left of that jacket to fit in a zip-loc bag, but he didn’t have to go to the hospital.

No the hospital was reserved for breaking both collar bones, the middle finger on his right hand (which doesn’t have a first joint anymore), two concussions (with a helmet on), and losing his left testicle in a wreck.  These are all separate wrecks mind you.

The reality of riding a bike is that if it’s hot, you are miserable (because of your protective gear).  We would literally hose off at filling stations and were dry by the time we hit the highway.   If it’s cold, you are miserable.  If there is any other traffic around, you should be pretty much afraid for your life every second. Try riding a motorcycle from South Texas to Denver in two days.  I promise you will not be able to walk for a week.  Oh and everything you have to take with you has to fit in a bag that holds 1.5 cubic feet of stuff.

You don’t just hop on a bike and ride into the sunset.  You put on heavy jeans, boots, jacket, helmet and gloves.  And don’t plan on taking anyone with you.  There’s nothing more boring than driving a motorcycle across the North Texas plains unless you’re a passenger on the motorcycle on said trip.  These trips, of course, were before intercoms, bluetooth, and such devices.  We had an FM radio that I couldn’t hear.

I talk about all this, because I still love the idea of owning and riding a motorcycle.  Like I said, it’s a great dream. But I’ve been infected with reality.

I’ve been infected with reality about a lot of things in my life. And I’m talking about minor things.  Like dogs.  I love the idea of having a big dog.  I have a friend that breeds borzois.  They are beautiful, majestic animals.  Graceful and powerful… almost as awesome as a cheetah.

But the reality is that dogs smell like dogs.  Big dogs eat… a lot.  Bog dogs poop… a lot.  I’m certainly not a runner.  I’m not much of an outdoor person at all.  Actually a big sight-hound would be just about perfect for me.  I know this because I’ve researched them.  Despite the occasional, massive bursts of speed, they are mostly couch potatoes.

But once again, I like the idea of having one of these dogs.  But I understand that I probably wouldn’t like the reality as much as the dream.  If I had one, then I would love it and take care of it, but it’s a lot of effort.  And it’s probably best that I not do that right now (or maybe ever).

It should be obvious that the thing (whatever it is) and the idea of the thing are very, very different.  But it’s not obvious, because we aren’t skeptical.  That’s one of the jobs of marketing people, to convince you that the dream IS the thing.  To convince you that skepticism isn’t needed.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming.  But before you pull the trigger on that purchase, think long and hard.  Is it the Thing you love or just the Idea of the Thing.

  • MichaelNewsham

    As an owner of motorcycles for 39 of the last 43 years, including the present, everything you say is true- but live the dream!