Fodder for Thought · Subcultures of America

Subcultures of America: Part 1: The Non-Vespa Buyer

So its been 6 months to the day since I have returned from New Zealand. Jesus Christ. I ask myself and because of my egocentric self-absorbed narcissism I often think other people may wonder… What have I been doing?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, let me try to articulate my experiences and thoughts into a semi-comprehensive and hardly cohesive series of short essays I am entitling: the subcultures of America. In my futile attempts to gracefully enter the adult world and find a ‘real’ job whilst clinging to my reckless and whimsical youth, I have found myself thrown into a whirlwind tour of cultures that compose the beautiful USA. (USA! USA! USA!)

I will begin my journeys with the Non-Vespa Buyer. This is not the correct temporal order, but rather what I am writing about first because I am so overwhelmed by my feelings of disgust with this culture. I am currently sitting in the back seat of a baby blue Nissan Leaf at the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival. It is my fortress, protecting me from the swarms of non-vespa buyers leering at me through the non-tinted windows.

How did I find myself here? Well… Let us travel back in time to the beginning of May. It was a beautiful sunny day in Berkeley, spring was melting into summer, and there was an electricity in the air that can only be triggered by the anxious excitement of thousands of UC Berkeley students itching to be set free. To celebrate, bonewall (the house I live in with 9 other people and a dog and a cat) decided to host a bbq at Willard park. The mass texts were distributed far and wide, resulting in a bizarre mix of people who were part of one of our lives in some strange tangential way. One of these people was my philosophy GSI (Grad-student instructor) who also has a passion for motorcycles and works part time at our local vespa/aprilia dealership: Rockridge Two Wheel.

We are chatting about life, I hadn’t seen him in a while and I casually mention that I am desperately searching for a job and will do anything. Anything. He then casually mentions that they are desperately searching for a summer sub at their sister store Vespa Walnut Creek since the woman who works there is leaving to ride her vespa around Europe for a couple months. A week later, after a brief 15-minute chat over coffee with the owner I am being trained so I can help sub at the store and do Vespa promotion and marketing.

Since then I have done Vespa promotion at the SF Jazz Festival the weekend of July 4th and worked a total of 12 hours in the Vespa Walnut Creek store. I have sold one scooter. In return I am paid hourly + commission and have been given a baby blue lx 50 vespa to ride around Berkeley. (Chick magnet BTW). I have also made new friends, gone go karting with them, and been inspired to buy a 1982 Yamaha Maxim 550. Not bad…

But where was I… As I sit here in my sanctuary of the Nissan Leaf I can see the people perouzing about the LXV 150 Espresso Vespa on display 3 ft to the right of my haven. Flyers and promotional coupons are on display, awful small children climb all over it, and countless wealthy white overweight males stare at that beautiful beast.

For 7 hours I was out there in the brutal sun, listening to story after story of this one time in 1971 I had a scooter… This one time I was in Italy and rented one… Had the time of my life… I once knew a guy who had a sister in law who’s son’s friend had a scooter… And gee I could commute to work on this instead of my Yukon.
I smile and nod to every one who tells me these wildly unique stories that just enthrall me. Not.
Gag me with a spoon. I don’t care what you do to me just please please please don’t tell me another amusing anecdote.
I smile and nod.

There’s also the manly dude that is wearing a nice watch and has a winning grin that tries to insult the vespa for being non-manly. Like wow, how insecure are you? Because man or woman, beast or child, whoever gets on a vespa has fun. Vespas are like singing the YMCA. It’s just fun and you can’t do anything about it. You can’t be too cool to love throwing your hands up in the air and just screaming at the top of your lungs Y! M! C! A! And you can’t be too manly to just break down in tears and just love riding a vespa for the pure joy one has revving its modest throttle, beeping its little beep, and saluting all two wheeled vehicles you pass. For the love of god, VESPAS ARE FUN!!!!!!!!

So I had this epiphany as I sat here in this perfect wonderful magnificent Nissan leaf. It isn’t the stories that bother me… its the nostalgia that seeps out of their every pore that sickens me. It’s not even the nostalgia actually, its that these people can just buy a scooter, but something is holding them back. It’s not that they don’t have the means… I don’t know what it is. I just don’t know what’s holding them back. I just don’t understand it, because I don’t think I’m like that. I hope I am never like that.

Earlier today I was using this ‘line’. After I would listen to the stories and answer a few of the standard questions about the cost, mpg, max speed, is it freeway legal, and whether you need a motorcycle license (yes you do), there is a predictable sequence of behavior that happens: 1. The non-vespa buyer looks at the vespa 2. Then Sighs 3. Then looks back at me and says I’ve been thinking about this for years. So I hand them our promotional coupon of $500 off accessories with purchase of new vespa and say “just pull the trigger”. The non-vespa buyer then has this look in their eye and seems to be caught slightly off guard. Most nervously smile or chuckle… And we both know that they will never pull the trigger. This is what saddens me. This subculture of well to do middle aged folk that don’t just do it. Because why not? Why not just do it?

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