yeah, I judge

IMG_0238I admit that I judge people.

Scooter people.  I hate ’em.

(Except for one of my Facebook friends & former coworkers, who I can tell is a conscientious rider, but hey, Charlotte is just the exception that proves the rule as far as I’m concerned.)

I’m not proud of it… well, not entirely, but there it is just the same.

It’s pretty simple why, and I’ll tell you.

Motorcycle people are, in general, pretty aware of other motorcycle people. When we park, we tend to leave enough room for another bike to get into the space with us and when we park in a space where there’s already another motorcycle (which, honestly, we will usually only do if we’re sure we know the owner of the other bike), we leave enough room to make sure the other rider can safely get out of the space. It’s not much more than common courtesy, but it’s important because it makes sure car drivers aren’t given another reason to hate us.  Seeing one bike per space just pisses people off, especially folks with those massive SUVs.

(Wow, I’m not making any friends here, am I?)

I have noticed, however, that scooter people (in general) are not like this.

Everybody knows I work from home now, but up until March of this year, I worked in a regular office in Arlington (and before that, Alexandria). Of course I rode my motorcycle to work as often as logistically possible and when I parked it at the office, I tried to take a space that a car either couldn’t fit in or that a car driver wouldn’t particularly care for (low ceiling, next to a pole, straddling a speed bump, that kind of thing).

In that same office building in Arlington, however, were several scooter riders.

There was more than one occasion where I came out after work to start my commute home and discovered my bike blocked into its parking space by one or two of these things. Blocked, I tell you! As in I had to physically move the scooter(s) to be able to get my bike out of the parking space. The first time, I figured the guy (or gal) was just in a hurry, so I carefully moved the scooter just barely enough to squeak by bike past it. The second time, I wasn’t as sure the scooterati was in a hurry, so I was … well, less careful but still doing nothing that would get me in trouble.

The fifth or sixth time I had to move this person’s scooter, I took the time to go back up to my office, grab a piece of paper, write “Please stop blocking my motorcycle in the parking spaces, thank you” on it, and squeeze that piece of paper into a crevice on the scooter.

I found the paper lying on the ground the next morning with the scooter once again blocking me into my space and this time, it had a bicycle lock run through the front wheel so I couldn’t roll the thing out of the way. Luckily I am strong and scooters are light, so I just picked it up and moved it – only this time, in a very hateful move, I carried the scooter 30 or 40 feet and left it in a very inconvenient (yet still accessible/viewable) spot.

You’d think that would have ended the parking lot standoff, but no. A week later, I found my bike once again blocked in by this scooter-riding knucklehead. After that, I started parking my bike at an angle across the front of the space I was in, basically preventing anybody from blocking me in – thus becoming the parking space-hogging dick I was trying to avoid becoming. I occasionally discovered the scooter in question parked behind me, but it never blocked me in again.

Fast forward to now. I live in an apartment complex with a parking garage. They charge $90 a month for garage spaces, but they allow motorcycles & scooters to park in the garage for free – they just ask that we either use a space a car can’t use or bunch together with multiple two-wheelers in one space.

Guess what’s happening.

It’s actually worse than just some insensitive prick blocking me in. The scooterati here park inappropriately in multiple places, and some of them even have left their broken-down scooters (leaking oil, gas, etc.) lying around like so much post-apocalyptic detritus.

I’ve witnessed reprehensible behavior on the part of scooter riders around here, including riding on sidewalks, running stop signs & red lights, and more. I’m not saying motorcycle riders don’t occasionally do those same things, I’m just saying I don’t SEE motorcycle riders doing them with any regularity.

It could just be that I’m getting all “GET OFF MY LAWN,” but this shit is irritating me to the point where all I want to do is kick these little bastards out of my way and get on with my life.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that no matter how big or small your two- (or three-) wheeled conveyance is, we all reflect on each other. When a swarm of sport bike riders attacks an SUV driver, that makes us all look bad. When an open-pipe bike gets revved for 2 minutes at a stoplight by its rider for no apparent reason, that makes us all look bad. When a guy (or gal) on a scooter acts like a dick in the parking lot, that makes us all look bad.  We have enough to worry about just getting from place to place without getting run over that the last thing we need is car drivers actively hating us for behavior they witnessed  that we weren’t even involved in!

Scooter, moped, bike, trike or sidecar – we all have to look out for each other.

If you ride a scooter, I’ll look out for you … as long as you quit blocking me in my damn parking space!!

get in there and hurt somebody

I was just looking through a list of wars the US has been actively involved in, dating back to the 1st shots of the American Revolution in 1774. In those 239 years, we’ve been at war somewhere here or there for 176 years, including dozens of wars against native American Indian tribes throughout most of the 1800s. Even during the devastating Civil War, the US Army kept fighting the Indians.

I wonder what the stats are for other countries in their 1st 240 years of existence, or even the last 240 years of their existence.

Looking at the wars fought by the Roman Republic in the 239 years between 351*-112 BC, Rome was at war for a total of 99 years. In the last 239 years of the Roman Empire (155-394** AD), Rome was in an active state of war (or civil war) for 115 years. I think we can all agree that Rome certainly meddled in the affairs of the nations/tribes surrounding it, so, like the USA, there was certainly military action going on in other years, but I’m talking about active, publicly declared wars of some sort.

To recap: USA is 239 years old & has been at war for 176 of them. The beginning & ending 239 years of the Roman Republic/Empire, Rome was at war for 99/115 years respectively.

I suppose you can balance that out by looking at Napoleon, who reigned for 19 years (1796-1815, 1st as a member of the Directory & later as Emperor) & was only not at war during 1803, 1810-11 & during his exile on Elba from May 1814 to February 1815 – let’s call that 1 year. During 19 years of rule, then, Napoleon was actively at war with somebody for 15 years. That’s a mighty percentage.

What, exactly, is my point?  I don’t know, exactly, except to say that for the first time in a long time, I think it’s time that the US stop dropping bombs on the people of some other nation simply because we don’t like what they do to their own people. Yes, if it did indeed happen, it is reprehensible that Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, used sarin gas on the rebels that have risen against him.

It was less than 100 years ago that many of the major civilized nations of the west – England, France, Germany, Austria, Russia and the United States – were using chemical weapons against each other with enthusiasm. Oh, it started innocently enough with tear gas, which police forces & militaries around the world continue to use to pacify crowds. It went on from there, though, to xylyl bromide, chlorine (produced by the German company BASF, which is still in manufacturing today), phosgene (invented by French scientists & responsible for most of the gas-related deaths in the war), a nifty blend of chlorine AND phosgene, and, of course, mustard gas, which wasn’t really meant to kill many people (and didn’t) but rather as a way to make the battlefield (or at least the enemy’s trenches) uninhabitable.

Chemical weapons, though universally recognized as horrific, remained in vogue in military circles worldwide throughout the 1920s, but haven’t really been used in large-scale combat since 1925, when most WW1 combatants (not the US, though) signed the first treaty banning the use of such weapons. The US didn’t sign the Geneva Protocol until the 1970s. Note that the GC only bans the USE of chemical weapons – not the creation or stockpiling of such weapons.  The last country to use chemical weapons during a war in a big way was Iraq, which used mustard & other gasses to kill or wound about 100,000 of Iran’s forces.

In between, of course, was Germany again, using Zyklon B to gas into oblivion millions of European Jews during WW2, but I think we can all agree that doesn’t really count as combat.

The USA is still the only nation in the world to have used the entire suite of NBC weapons – nuclear, biological & chemical – to kill its enemies. While our leaders have promised not to use chemical or biological weapons in the future, that doesn’t stop them from continuing to manufacture and stockpile them.  It takes a pretty sturdy soap box to support you in condemning any government from using chemical weapons when you yourself produce tons of them every year.

None of this makes it right for Assad to attack his own people with chemical weapons (if, indeed, he did) – but is it any more right for the US to drop bombs on Syria as “punishment” for his having done so?  My mother always told me that “two wrongs don’t make a right” (even though three lefts do), so I’m having a hard time reconciling that the USA is making plans to spank Syria for gassing its own people.

As many people have pointed out, the revolution in Syria has cost at least 100,000 lives so far. Why is the most recent 1,000 of them, though killed by sarin gas, the ones that finally “demand” action from anywhere else in the world?

I think it’s time for the US to stop acting like the world’s police force and stick to fixing things in its own back yard.  With an active war going on in Afghanistan (because, you know, previous wars involving Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the Mughals, the British & the Soviet Union all turned out so spectacularly) and another one in Iraq mostly winding down, is the US just so bored that it’s time to start another war that’s going to cost billions of dollars & possibly thousands of lives?  They SAY “no boots on the ground” now, but things hardly ever stay that way.

Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our health care costs are out of control. Our education system is in shambles.  Our leaders are corrupt.  Our businesses are robbing us blind.  Our borders are porous.  Our atmosphere is disintegrating.  Our power grid is being pushed to capacity.  We have 100s of 1000s of people in this country that are unemployed, hungry or homeless. How about instead of throwing expensive weapons at another nation, we dump some of that money into fixing problems here in the United States?

I think the underlying reason we don’t pay more attention to our own problems is because it’s easier to point the self-righteous finger of judgment at the actions and ideas of others than it is to examine the gaping holes in our own system.

* 351 BC saw the end of the war between the Roman Republic & the Tarquinii, Falerii & Caere – while it’s debatable as to when the Roman Republic can first be considered an empire, there is NO DOUBT that after 351 BC (the end of this 8-year war), the Romans were the dominant power in the region.

** 394 AD wasn’t the end-end of the Roman Empire, but with the end of the last of the real Roman Civil Wars in this year, it can easily be identified as a clear end-point for the Romans despite another 100+ years of the barbarian tribes of Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East & Northern Africa picking apart the remnants of the empire.