Friday, February 22, 2008

The day I met Boris.

This morning, as I fired up the cantankerous, vintage Russian motorcycle I call “Boris”*, it occurred to me that I have yet to tell the tale of how I came to be the owner of a big, black side car equipped motorcycle.

It was the dawn of the new millennium and I, like most of my tech savvy peers, were making way too much money in this thing they dubbed, “the digital economy”. Printing money from thin air, if you could spell HTML some high tech start up would hire you, offer you an outrageous salary and promise you stock options, riches like you would not believe. Sites (many now long dead) were turning twenty-somethings into millionaires overnight and in the middle of all this madness, your humble narrator was smack dab in the middle and about to turn the bit THREE OH.

I figured I would reward myself, most of my friends at the time were buying sailboats, luxury SUVs and townhouses downtown, so why not? I’ve always wanted a BIG Harley as long as I can remember. Something about those big, black beasts that makes my spine tingle. I figured I deserved it. Up to this point, Tambo and I had always lived simply, still in that “starving college student” mindset, we shied away from converting our new found, post college wealth into big cars and such, opting rather to stash it away in case of a rainy day.

So after a quick call to our bank, an overly enthusiastic banker handed me a letter that said, in effect, “This man can write a check for any motorcycle he wants up to 25K and we guarantee that it will be good” After doing some research, I knew just what I wanted. Make, model, and color… this bad boy was not gonna be cheap either. One Friday, a week before my birthday, Tambo and I escaped work early and went done to the local dealership and were promptly ignored.

Yep, there we stood, with letter of guaranteed funds in hand and we could not get the time of day from any of the staff. After nearly accosting a sales person with threats of bodily harm, I explained what I was looking for and was told, get this, “sorry you can’t have that” Jaws agape, we stared at this man as he calmly explained that no, IF we wanted to drop over 20K today, we would have to pick a model from what they have enroute from the factory, that is IF there were any we liked and MAYBE we would get said substitute bike by Christmas.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but regardless of how much money a person spends, customer service goes a long way and if that somebody is about to drop tens of thousands of dollars, said customer service better damn well not include the word “no”

Disgusted, we left the dealership never to return. “I wanna ride a motorcycle, not a bandwagon” I told them as I left. Tambo, the ever calm one, asked me “well, are there any other makes you had your eye on?”
Well… there are these crazy retro bikes made in Russia that come with sidecars…

A few calls later and we had a date to go try one out. The nearest dealership was almost 2 hours drive away so Tambo and I made a day of it. Packed our riding gear up and headed out to what turned out to be a converted barn on the edge of where urban sprawl met farmland. The dealer? A smiling old guy who had not one, not two but three bikes sitting, warmed up and waiting for me. I’ve ridden sidecar bikes before so after a quick lesson on some of the specifics of these models, Tambo and I piled into one and took off in the direction he recommended.

“Lots of pretty pastures out that way..” he waved.

The bike did not roar and throb, rather it sounded like a rather large sewing machine as we hummed along the country road. Sure it was black and had some cool retro chrome, it was far from a big beast of a machine. That and there was this sound I kept hearing as we passed bemused looking cattle grazing in the sun. It was the sound of laughter. Tambo and I were laughing like a couple of giddy school kids as we roared down the open road together. Pulling over and removing our helmets we both had what must have been the biggest, goofiest grins on our faces.

I wanted one, but with a few additions. Upon returning, said requested additions were met with “sure, no problem. How does next week work for you?” and a price tag that was shockingly less than I was expecting to pay.

Next week, being my birthday was met with some technical crisis that forced both Tambo and I to log unimaginable hours at work. Not only would it look like I would be forced to work on my birthday, but I would not be getting to make the trip out to the dealership that week to pick-up my shiny new bike. “Not a problem” said the dealer, and what do you think he did? He puts the bike on a truck, makes the 2 hour trek and delivered the bike to my office on my birthday.

Today, Boris sits just outside where I type this. The years, they have started to take their toll on the old boy. His chrome is not so shiny and the tell tale spots of rust are beginning to show, but I still get that stupid grin every time I throw a leg over and fire up the old beast.

That cantankerous old sob still makes Tambo and I laugh like school kids every time.

*In Russia it is customary to name vehicles; ships etc with masculine identities, as opposed to the west were we tend to refer to them in the feminine form. The name “Boris” came to me because in my mind the bike would talk like a rotund cab driver, jovial but nobody’s fool. “Boris have one speed, Boris’ speed. If Boris want to go up hill fast, we go fast but don’t push it babushka”

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