“I thought you were going to ride your bike home today?” I asked KP as he poured a Belgian ale from the garage fridge.
“I will,” he replied, “but I didn’t say when. I got a wounded finger to nurse, you know?”
Chip walked in soon after Candy’s brother left. “I plan to take Jake up on his offer to give me a deal on a set of replacement tires before I return home.” I told him.
“He’ll treat you right Montana, he’s a straight-shooting guy.”
KP nodded in agreement.
“I can’t believe how well organized your garage is, Chip. Most things are in sight, hanging on the wall or peeking out from the rafters, and everything in containers is marked!”
“If you don’t know where your stuff is, you don’t own it, Montana. You’ll end up buying another one rather than dealing with the frustration of looking for it. I love fixing things, but I hate wasting half a day looking for tools and parts or having to go to the store.”
KP commented, “Chip knows where everything in here is located so well, he can work in the dark.”
“All right, let’s test it out. Go grab your Dremel, a set of points for a ’78 Sportster, and a hole file,” I asked.
Chip had them in about a minute.
“I’m impressed, Chip! I’ll buy you a beer from your fridge.” I chuckled.
Chip turned to KP. “I think I’ll take your bike for a ride; let’s make sure it’s properly tuned.”
KP quickly agreed. Chip suited up and rode out.
KP commented, “I know it needs some tuning, and Chip is just the guy to do it. He’s forgotten more about Harleys than I’ll ever know.”
When Chip returned, he checked the timing and adjusted the carbs. KP’s bike idled so loud in the garage, we couldn’t talk, so we just watched Chip work.
When he was finished, he returned to his chair and said, “You’re good to go Kaper.”
“Really appreciate it man, I guess I won’t be able to fix much till this finger heals.”
“I know,” Chip smiled at him. It was a heartwarming moment.
The renegades started rolling in after work, and by 6 pm, there was a group of about a dozen of them sitting in the garage. I was surprised to see one of the guys pull up on a Kawasaki V-Twin. Somebody greeted him with the name “Kwacker.”
Great, I wouldn’t be the only one not riding a Harley, I thought.
We hung around the garage for another hour, swapping stories and checking out bikes. KP told me that Kwacker used to ride a mid-sixties Triumph, but the thing broke down so often, the renegades wouldn’t let him ride with them anymore. He couldn’t afford a Harley, so he bought a metric cruiser which looks more like a Harley than some of the products from Milwaukee. He’d removed the Japanese badges and replaced them with outlaw stickers.
“Let’s mount up,” Chip hollered.
Everyone suited up and we followed him out of the neighborhood and across a bridge into St. Paul, past a gorgeous church, and on to some country bar with a huge parking lot on the edge of town. It was filled with Harleys and reminded me of Sturgis. A lot of riders were standing around their bikes, chatting, adjusting something, or packing away riding gear.
We found a spot to park as a group and had barely dismounted our bikes when Kwacker got into a loud argument with some Harley rider. They were waving their arms and shouting obscenities to each other.
Spider rushed to the scene, grabbed Kwacker, and hauled him away forcibly.
“What the hell was that about?” I asked Chip.
“It doesn’t matter,” he responded as we walked into the saloon and grabbed a table.
Chip motioned for Spider and Kwacker to join us. Spider headed off to the bar and returned with a tray of beers a few minutes later.
Chip pushed a beer over to Kwacker and said, “Look, Kwacker, you’re a good-hearted guy, but you’re also a hothead. We can’t have any hotheads in our group – they cause too many problems. If you want to ride with us, you’ve got to control your temper.”
“That jackass really pissed me off!” Kwacker responded.
“Let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Chip responded. “You were in a good mood in my garage and looking forward to this evening. One guy says one thing as you park your bike, and all of a sudden, your mood changes and you’re pissed off. Why would you relinquish that much power to someone else?”
Kwacker interrupted, “Because he said…”
Chip continued, “There will always be people saying things you don’t like, Kwacker. The problem is not what this guy said, the problem is that you allowed him to trigger something in your head that you haven’t yet resolved. You’re too hypersensitive. I have a feeling you could get offended even if there was no intent to offend. If your self-image is dependent on the opinion of others, you’ll always be emotionally fragile. A guy who’s got his sh*t together is not going to let other people push his buttons.”
“I’m not fragile, he insulted me!”
Chip interjected, “There is no Constitutional right to freedom from insults, Kwacker. An insult is not a criminal offense; it is not a legal matter that merits justice. If it were, there’d be a court case, and the alleged offender would be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But I suspect the complainant would be found at fault as often as the defendant. That’s because feelings are subjective. What hurts one person’s feelings won’t bother someone else.”
“I think he intended to offend me,” Kwacker responded.
“Alright, let’s assume he did; life is full of minor aggressions. Who do you think will live a better life, the guy who brushes them off like dust, or the guy who lets himself be impaled by them?”
Kwacker didn’t have a comeback to that.
“Look, Kwacker, you’re not alone. Everyone blunders through life making one mistake after another. If you can’t forgive others their mistakes, then others won’t forgive you, and that starts a whole cycle of resentment and retaliation.”
Kwacker got up. “I guess you’re right, Chip,” and shuffled off to another table.
“You were kind of hard on him, weren’t you Chip?” Spider commented.
“Better he should learn his lessons verbally than by experience, Spider – life doesn’t favor ignorance. Also, I don’t want him playing the role of a social justice warrior using our group as a shield against retribution. I doubt he’d have been that confrontational had he been riding alone.”
“I doubt it too,” KP agreed.
It wasn’t hard to see why Chip was the group’s undisputed leader.
Header image courtesy of Pexels.com/Kindel Media.