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An Outlaw Biker Encounter

I was running the register at a Baltimore County supermarket in the early autumn of 2010, wearing my orange vest and name tag, slaving away in the most passive and highest pressure capacity in the lowest form of work in postmodern America, clerking at a supermarket. It was a beautiful day for riding, the kind of day Ronbone would have scorned as easy riding back in our youth, when the XT500 Yamaha was our ad hoc family transportation.

My next customer was a tall, strongly built, slightly barrel-chested man with short brown hair, a brown sweeping mustache and a brown go-tee over a high neck tattoo that read Hell’s Angels. Next to him was a tall, sexy cougar of mouth-watering proportions, holding on to his left arm—a good girl. He was obviously working man headed out for a ride with his babe on this Friday afternoon. His hands were deeply oil-stained. I figured a mechanic.

The purchase I do not recall. The man was my age and looked down into my eyes in that intimidating way with which men in the trades—one could see by his oil-stained and callused hands and overdeveloped forearms that he was some kind of mechanic—regard us unskilled laborers. I returned his look, looked at his neck tattoo, looked him in the eyes again and said, “Hope the good weather holds up for you, man.”

His eyes opened with a start at my lack of fear and well-wish and then went to my vest and name tag, which he regarded with abject horror etched on his face, like a wolf out of a Jack London novel casting pitying eyes on a chained dog, swallowed hard, as if staring into the some narrowly avoided pit of hell, and said curtly to its sufferer, “Thanks,” took his woman’s hand gently but firmly and lead her past me as I admired her playboy centerfold proportions, as he winked at me, as Donald Trump must wink to his waiter as he cuts into a Kobi beef steak.

I will never forget the look of horror on that stalwart Hell’s Angel, his tribe tattooed on his upper throat, when he recognized that I was a man capable of standing up to him without a blink, yet still enslaved like some whipped dog of a man. For the next six years of retail food toil, as I had occasion to remember his “but for the blessings of a thousand devils, that could have been me behind that register,” look, I remained haunted by his half swallowed pity.

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Add Comment
Mike_CMay 24, 2018 11:40 AM UTC

> pity vs failed stare-down

As our senior statistical consultant once said (when I led a question with "I don't know if I'm asking you this because I'm merely ignorant, or actually stupid, but ...") "Why can't it be both?"

My immediate impression on reading the above was that the biker was startled (if not shaken) by your refusal to be intimidated by a larger, more overtly dangerous-looking man, and that the wink was his way of reassuring HIMSELF that he was still the dominant one. My bet is that whatever doubt YOU took away from the encounter was collateral damage - not exactly unintended on his part, but probably not his main goal either.

I mean, the guy couldn't have been all that secure if he, a tall, burly and tattooed figure of menace, with a hot chick on his arm no less, bothered (no offense ;-) to stare down a cashier in an orange safety vest on a random encounter. So when you declined to cower or cringe, it upset his mental image of HIMSELF. You might be giving him credit for greater empathy than he actually has when you project "there but for the grace of God" into his thought processes.
responds:May 24, 2018 5:53 PM UTC

I think you are spot on with this.

What threw me off, I suppose, was his lack of apparent malice. But, yes, if I was just his strawman, how much malice would he need to project his menace across my small screen.
JJ PrzybylskiMay 23, 2018 11:54 PM UTC

Very well said. I'm not exactly sure what was said, but it was very well said and poetical. There are many, many measures of a man?
responds:May 24, 2018 2:40 PM UTC

Thanks, JJ

I've actually been haunted by this for near a decade.

I think this man pitied me, but who knows, maybe he just lost a stare down in his mind that I had not bothered to notice?