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Rants & Raves Index
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Death of a friend...
The Helmet Thing


Ok, now I’m not going to get into a full bore argument on how helmets destroy our personal freedom or how people in cars should wear helmets or how helmets really don’t prevent injury or any of that noise. I’m gonna give you my two cents and that’s all.

Two weekends ago I buried a buddy of mine of mine who died in a bike wreck – and like most things motorcycle, I feel better after I tell the entire world how I feel about stuff. Maybe it’s a sickness, but some seem to think its cheap entertainment, so here I go again (Sorry Brittany).

Out of respect for the family and friends, we’ll call him Tim, though those of you who know me personally will know exactly who I’m talking about – those of you who don’t – it doesn’t really matter because “Tim” was a friend, a rider and brother who didn’t deserve to go that way. Stephen King once talked about good death and bad death, a good death (according to Wendy) is to die with your boots on the rail of your farmhouse front porch, in a rocking chair, cigar in one hand and empty whisky glass in the other after you’ve gently nodded off – at 89 years of age. Stephen King thinks a bad death is to be slowly crushed to death by a Buick that’s toppled off the jackstand while hot transmission fluid drips into your face. I agree with both.

Tim died a bad death – it simply wasn’t his fault. Some yahoo illegal-left-turned in front of him and he didn’t have a second to react. Now, I don’t know the details of his actual demise but considering the eulogy at the service contained the phrase “helmets save lives” and I know they made a conscious decision to take him off life support, I can only guess head injury. He was 44 years old.

At 19 I was immortal, at 24 I was immoral, at 30 I was incarcerated and at 46 I am more aware of my fragile mortality than I care to be. I simply don’t want to die a bad death, I wanna stick around for a good one (or as good a one as my previously self-destructive lifestyle will allow). So I decided that I would wear a helmet. Not like before, for a week or two, or when it rained, or when I was going into a state that required one – I was really going to bite the bullet and find some lid I could live with and wear it all the time.

The question now becomes what kind of helmet am I gonna wear? Well, wearing a “novelty” helmet makes about as much sense to me as going into a gunfight wearing novelty Kevlar, so it’s DOT or not at all. I mean I’m doing this for wife, my kid and mainly myself – not because of some state law. I’m not trying to get around something; I’m trying to actually prevent something. So I settled on a fairly lightweight, leather-covered half-helmet. It’s not the coolest thing in the world, but at least it’s not one of those annoying full-face, Rodger-Rocket Ranger affairs the sportbiker boys wear. I just don’t think dayglo green and yellow are my colors.

Now for those of you who wear helmets all the time, you must have some kind of magic with the D-ring thing, cause for me there’s more fumbling here that with bra straps on prom night. A while back I had a helmet with a clip on the strap, so off I went to the Harley Dealer in search of this little freekin’ snap that would make my new helmet easy-on and easy-off. I tried all the aftermarket places in the area, but none of them carried this little jewel. But the dealer did, so now my helmet and easy clip were ready to go. For those of you who don’t know about this clip, you can find it here: http://www.echoproducts.com.

But (and there’s always a butt somewhere) while I was there I thought I’d take a look at the Harley helmets. And there was the most idiotic thing I had every seen – staring me right in the face. Here’s the deal, lotsa people wear helmets and lotsa people do it for different reasons. Some of them voice their displeasure with having to wear a helmet by covering them with stickers that say rude things like “Hair By Helmet”, “I’m not wearing this helmet by choice” and the ever-popular “Helmet Laws Suck”. Some cover ‘em with stickers that have nothing to do with helmets like “Just Do Me”, “No Fat Chicks” and my personal favorite “I got this smart by killing people and eating their brains”.

If (however) you are the laziest, lamest, chowder head on the planet – you can now buy a half-helmet from Harley that has emblems that look like stickers. They don’t say anything rude and they’re nicely coated under the acrylic so they won’t ever get dirty or peel off. So if you are too lazy to even go to a rally and pick out your own stickers, you can get that “stickered” helmet look from Harley for only $145. Goofy beyond words.

Anyway, I worked up quite a lather internally thinking about how wrong that was and maybe for a few moments it took me away from the fact that Tim was still never gonna swing up alongside me on our way to a big plate of Italian food. Maybe if he had worn a helmet he’d still be here, maybe he’d be here and a vegetable or terribly crippled, or maybe it wouldn’t have helped at all. I dunno.

Sometimes I think the life and death thing is cruelly random, and that we’re not really in control at all when the hammer of the Gods swings in our direction – all we can do is appreciate and savor each day like it was our last, making sure that those around us know how much we care about them and how much they’d be missed if they were suddenly plucked from this mortal coil.

I’ll miss Tim, and I think I’ll remember him by clipping on my helmet every time I get on my bike – but I’ll buy my own damn stickers, thank you!

Oh, and I personally don’t care if you wear a helmet or you don’t – so no arguing or sending me emails about your helmet thoughts. I don’t care what you think about that – but I know I’ll miss my friend, and nothing can change that.

warren@choppersrule.com