Born to Be Mild


He wanted a motorcycle. Of course I didn't want him to have one. Every tragic motorcycle wreck I’d ever seen on the news flashed across a theater-size screen in my head. Being the Perry Mason of marital “discussions,” I contemplated starting the longest debate in history, complete with handouts and a flannel board.

Instead, I used Lamaze breathing techniques to calm myself and thought about what I could bring to the table for our negotiations. Two days later, we had the equivalent of a NATO meeting at the dining room table.

“Okay, I’ve thought about this, and I still don’t like it, but I know this is what you want.”

Flash nodded.

“I have two proposals.”

He nodded again, perhaps enjoying the calm before an expected storm.

“Could you wear a helmet every time you ride?”

“Of course,” the smart man replied, “I already planned on that.”

“Would you please not ride your motorcycle to work?” My beloved traveling to and from downtown Houston in rush-hour traffic every day would increase my gray hairs a hundredfold.

Flash agreed to both of my Terms of Bikerhood.

With lightening speed, perhaps before I could add any items to the existing terms, he purchased a Kawasaki. Flash was like a kid in a cycle shop; he and his first bike-crush lived happily together for many years.

Except for one day that wasn't so happy.

Flash and I had an argument. Being expert communicators, we hadn’t disagreed in three days. He was seething; I remained the poster child for self-control.

“Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out,” I bellowed after him, as he walked into the garage. I figured he’d take a short drive in his car before realizing he was wrong and coming home to apologize. He never drove his motorcycle when he was that upset. Friends don't let friends ride angry.

But I heard his ally, Kawasaki, roar to life. My gut knotted when I glanced out the door to see Flash on his bike, without his helmet. He was making a statement in the form of breach of contract. Which, of course, ticked me off more. Which he knew.

Now I love my husband, but I had to go straight to the top for his infraction; his safety and my remaining sanity were at stake. I want him around to argue with when we’re 95. So, I silently prayed, God, please let him have a horrible ride. Don't let anything bad happen to him or let him get hurt. But don't let him have any fun. I heard the Almighty’s “Tsk, tsk, tsk” as He shook his head at me.

Flash took off in a fury. I went back inside after shutting the garage door. Less than 12 minutes later, I heard Kawasaki’s engine as she and Flash approached the house.

Knowing Flash hated when I closed the garage door while he was riding, I felt a little guilty. When he got home, he would have to get off of his bike to open the door instead of just driving into the garage. My conscience wouldn’t shut up, so I went out to open the garage door.

As I lifted it, I saw Flash across the street, picking his bike up. I yelled, "Are you okay?" Unknown to me at the time, this brought unwanted attention from the neighbors outside, who watched as Flash walked his motorcycle into the garage, pulled down the door, and went into the house.

It was a morgue in the living room for a couple of hours; nobody spoke. Finally, I broke the ice with, "Please don't ride without your helmet again, especially when you're angry."

“Oh, that won’t be happening again!” I was stunned that he would agree so quickly, given our disagreement earlier. Before I could ask what happened, Flash started recounting his exercise in humiliation. When he had left the house, my rebel with an angry cause had made it to the stop sign at the end of our street, and his bike fell over. After James Dean and Steve McQueen rolled over in their graves, Flash picked up his bike and continued on his manly journey. Having had his spirits dampened, it was a short ride.

When he came back to the house and saw the garage door closed, he decided to circle around and park by the curb in front of our house. As he was turning around, his wheels hit freshly cut wet grass on the street, in front of our neighbors’ house. His bike slid out from under him, and he fell.

Thinking my prayers for a horrible ride were more powerful than every law of physics, I confessed the conspiratorial request I’d made to God.

"Well it worked!" Flash responded with laughter.

He's worn a helmet ever since, even after he broke up with Kawasaki and began courting a more powerful love named Harley. After years of that love affair, he’s now eyeing things with more than two wheels.

At the moment, his sights are set on a golf cart.

“A golf cart? Where are you going to drive a golf cart? It’s not like we’re in the country, and you only play disc golf. People would point and laugh if you drove one between baskets.”

“We’ll drive it in the street.”

“You can do that here?”

“Yes, I checked; it’s legal.”

I pictured cars lining up behind him as he tootled down our residential streets.

Seeing skepticism in my eyes, he added, “It’s for Cowboy.”

Golf carts are to Cowboy what motorcycles are to Flash. Of course, we've owned a lot of cool toys "for Cowboy" such as a large trampoline and a hot tub. Being good parents, we've taught our son to share, so it's a win-win situation for all of us.

I was starting to warm up to the idea. Well, he’s slowing down in this season of life. That will be safer, I thought.

But as Flash has been shopping around for the best deal, he’s made some amendments to his proposal.

“It will be so cool,” he says. “I’ll drop a three-quarter racing cam in her with fuel injection and milled heads, put dual-side header exhaust, install a six-speaker stereo system, get a lift kit, put on oversized tires and new rims, buy a windshield, and add headlights, blinkers, running lights, and fog lamps. Oh, and it will have a Dukes of Hazzard car horn.”

It seems the need for speed is no respecter of age. I picture Flash living up to his name as he runs the streets, drag racing with mail carriers, with Cowboy in tow. My 54-year-old husband will be the terror of the neighborhood; my son will be deemed a delinquent. I tremble.

Once again, I’m forced to my knees, this time on behalf of all mankind, as well as my reputation. I know God hears me; there has been little talk of the golf cart for the last three weeks. Prayer works.