There are times when I wonder why I keep writing this column. Does anybody read this stuff? I ask myself. Does anybody care?
But every now and then, I hit the jackpot. That's what happened on March 11, when I set my sights on the motorcyclists and blasted them for their loud pipes and antisocial behavior. Wow! The response was overwhelming. Scores of outraged bikers posted on the City Paper website to imply that I am gay and suggest that I should have my tires flattened. One person even called me a "dick with ears."
"These people are crazier than the gun nuts," one friend wrote me in an e-mail.
Yes, the responses ranged from the ludicrous to the libelous, but I loved them all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Now, with that said, there are a few claims in those postings I would like to discuss. Several bikers wrote in to say that they had served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and this gave them the right to make as much noise as they wanted to and to hell with anybody else.
I disagree. When you joined the Armed Forces, you took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. It says nothing in that Constitution about the right to keep me awake at night with your damned motorcycle. But it does give you the right to post on this website and say what you think of me and my columns. So use it and enjoy it. You've earned it.
A common theme through the e-mails was that "loud pipes save lives." Several writers offered personal examples, and I have heard these stories from other bikers personally. While there may be anecdotal "evidence" that loud pipes save lives, there is no scholarly evidence that this is true. By contrast, there is abundant research to show that wearing helmets saves lives and even some research to suggest that wearing bright clothing prevents collisions and saves lives. But you would never get a big, hairy, tattoed biker to turn in his black leather and dark blue denim for something bright and reflective. And as for wearing helmets, many bikers have made it clear that they would die first — and some of them do!
All of this begs the point: In their sanctimonious claims that loud pipes save lives, bikers are shifting responsibility for their personal safety from themselves to the public. Don't these rugged individuals realize that this is the road to socialism? Next thing you know, they will be asking the public to subsidize their straight pipes. What would Billy and Captain America say about that?
I did make a friend while reading my fan mail, Cindy Roddenberry. She calls herself Purple Pan Cindy, and she left a phone number and said she would like to discuss my column. She and I had a nice long talk about a week ago and have exchanged several e-mails since then. She is a registered nurse living in Beaufort County and has been riding a Harley for 30 years.
As a nurse and a member of the S.C. Motorcycle Safety Task Force, Cindy is working for stricter driver's license requirements for bikers and to train bikers in emergency trauma response. Ten years ago she organized an annual charity ride, Thunder Rally for Cancer (www.thunderrallyforcancer.com), which raises thousands of dollars for cancer care each year.
And Purple Pan Cindy has loud pipes. "When I am out on the highway or in the country, I really like to hear them roar," she told me. It's part of the thrill of the motorcycle, she said.
And she added, "There are a lot of motorcyclists out there who are difficult to deal with ... Those people who are loud and discourteous are the minority ... We really need to be considerate."
As a personal example, she said that when she rides her Harley home at night, she turns it off and pushes it up the driveway and into the garage.
Cindy is against any legislation that would "infringe on motorcyclists' rights to choose their bike accessories," she said. The answer to motorcycle noise is compromise, she told me, and respect for such factors as location, time, and situation.
I completely endorse Cindy's call for respect and compromise, but I see — and hear — far too little of it among bikers around Charleston. The idea of controlling motorcycle noise by voluntary restraints reminds me of George W. Bush's call for voluntary restraints on Wall Street and the banking industry. And we all know how that worked out.
I thank Cindy Roddenberry for her comments and observations, and to all my correspondents out there, I say, keep those cards and letters and e-mails coming in. You make this job fun.
See Will Moredock's blog at thegoodfight.ccpblogs.com.