I wanted a moped.
I can't remember why, but that's what I wanted. I hadn't had my $115 ten-speed bicycle (as seen here) more than a year or two, and I'd really wanted that, at least until I had it. But now I wanted something with a motor in it.
The year, I think, was 1983. I'm not sure whether we had shut down Rockarama yet, but it was somewhere around that time. The place: Columbus, Ohio.
If we had closed down Rockarama by then (the store never did make us any money), that means I was working at Buzzard's Nest on Morse Road, or possibly about to start there. The new job was a seven mile commute from our duplex on 13th Ave. It makes sense that I would have wanted a vehicle that made the ride a little easier. There was no money for a car (I earned $4.00 an hour at the Buzz), but a moped was affordable--barely.
Maybe it was the slick radio ads from Rick Case Honda that got me interested in mopeds. The ads promised that they would beat anyone else's price, "or give you the Honda for free!" Even gullible Karen saw through that one. It would always be more advantageous for the dealer to beat a price than to give the bike away, and yet it wasn't false advertising. As I said: slick. But it meant that the price would be low, and that's what I was aiming for.
John said I could get the moped if I sold the bike to help pay for it. So we set up at one of the drive-in theatre flea markets, and I did sell the bike and some other stuff. Then we went off to Rick Case. I came home with my little red moped. Top speed: 20 mph. That part was a little frustrating, but otherwise I loved it. I'm pretty sure I gave it a name, but I don't remember what it was.
You see those blurry blue steps on the right in the photo above? A couple of feet away from those, on the side of the house, was a length of pipe. I think it was a drainpipe, but it could have been a gasline, or a water pipe. I just remember that it was attached to the house at both ends, or else one end went into the ground. You get the idea, though: both ends were secure. Therefore, locking my moped to it with a bike lock should have been secure.
Nope. One evening, while we were home, someone cut off the lock and made away with the moped. I'd only had it a couple of months. I reported it to the police, but of course nothing ever came of that. I don't recall whether it was covered by renters' insurance. Probably not. And I don't think Jenny Dog even barked at the thief.
Well, I was fed up with 20 miles per hour anyway. And now tv was advertising a new kind of Honda, one that made the moped seem like a kid's toy. It was called an Aero scooter. It came in 50cc and 80cc models. Top speed on the 80cc: 40 mph! Maybe as much as 44 mph, I later discovered, but only while going down a steep hill with a strong tailwind.
I had to have one.
Harry Nilsson's song Me and My Arrow played endlessly in my head as I planned the purchase, made possible by the $4.00 an hour George was paying me. Maybe my mom or dad chipped in with a loan, but I don't really remember. The bottom line is, I went to Honda East, where the staff was much more personable and service-oriented, much less pressuring than the other place. I got my Aero 80. I had to pass a motorcycle test, but that turned out to be easy to do.
That first scooter was great to ride, especially between 13th Ave and Morse Rd. The speed limit along my route was pretty much the same speed the Aero could do. I'd never be able to take the Aero on the Interstate (actually I think I tried it once or twice, for all of one exit), but it worked great for getting to work--as long as it wasn't snowing or icy.
Then one day, perhaps nine months later, I was on Karl Rd as usual, coming up on an intersection. I know it was near Colleen's Collectibles and the cake shop, but I'm not sure of the street name after all these years. Olentangy? Oakland Park? Lane Ave.? Something else? Whatever. It may have been where McGuffey Lane sorta-kinda turns into Karl Road. Don't expect me to remember the exact grid, because I haven't been there in nineteen years.
What I do remember is the layout of that part of the intersection. Picture this: I'm going north. Immediately in front of me, the only northbound lane splits into two lanes, a couple hundred feet before the light. The right lane is not a "right turn only" lane. The left lane is not a "left turn only" lane. Both lanes continue after the light.
On the right (SE corner), just at the light, is a gas station. In the left lane, three cars are backed up, waiting for the first car to get an opening to turn left. The light is green. The right lane, all 200 feet of it, is empty.
Got it? Now here's what happened. Since I needed to go straight at the light, and didn't want to sit behind the guy turning left, I got into the right lane as soon as there was one. Yes, of course I signaled, but people don't watch for 80cc scooters. Nothing smaller than a car even registers in the brains of some drivers.
A woman was leaving the gas station. The third car in line in the left lane saw her car sitting there, and kindly waved her in.
She never paid attention to the fact that there was another lane between her and the waving driver. She sure as heck didn't look to see whether there was a scooter in that lane.
I have never been able to remember the moment of impact.
My glasses flew off, even through the used helmet we'd painted silver. The helmet flew off, too, I think. I sprained my ankle for approximately the 17th time, and needed stitches in my heel. The Aero, of course, was totaled.
The woman whose car hit my scooter told me she was afraid to drive in the day or two after the accident. But she had no clue why she was the one cited for it. "Because I'm the one with the car," she said. She had no idea what had really happened, where I'd appeared from. She didn't understand that it really was her fault, until I explained it to her.
Ironically, this is very similar to the way the 18-year-old in the 1965 Ford pickup totaled my Saturn on March 30th, 2005. The cop had to explain it to him, too.
The insurance settlement on the Columbus accident got me a 1984 Aero 80, replacing my 1983 model. The "pain and suffering" check went most of the way toward buying John a Honda motorcycle.
Can you say "road trip?" I knew you could.
Friday: An American Castle.