Monday, March 10, 2008


When I think of scooter, I think of a cool, well-dressed, gorgeous European man tooling around the Piazza on a vintage Vespa, his dark purple tie flapping in the wind. He may have an equally gorgeous, slim babe in a shift dress, dark sunglasses and chiffon covering her hair, riding on back. How chic, how sophisticated... how un-American.

Back in Toronto my husband rode a vintage Vespa that I had won in a major sales contest. He loved the freedom of zipping through downtown traffic and the cache of owning an Italian model, the epitome of cool in scooter cultural terms. His friends were envious. His best friend eventually bought a Vespa, another friend of mine bought one too. When we got ready to move back to the US, we discovered it was going to be a paperwork/logistical nightmare to get it across the border and regrettably sold it to another friend who was more than happy to take it off our hands.

Recently my husband took an early shift at work and required his own mode of transportation. We have been a one car family for so long, we had to deliberate on what/how/when to buy a second vehicle. One car families are an anomaly in this car-culture town, but a one car/scooter family is downright unheard of. Now I'm not saying that scooters aren't ridden around here because they are. But they tend to have drivers who are younger, college student types who are limited on funds. Some of them are cool too.

Taking into account the cost of a car note, insurance, astronomical gas prices and downtown parking fees, we concluded that another scooter would do the trick, especially since it will get driven ten or eleven months of the year, rather than the four or five months available in Canada. A quick search on Craigslist turned up a fairly new Honda scooter with less than 75 miles on it. To boot, no motorcycle license is required to drive a scooter (under a certain cc) in the state of North Carolina. Free parking, next to free gas prices and no paperwork...what more could we ask for!

I pictured my husband in his Banana Republic suit, driving through town, women stopping mid sentence to check out the sexy machine... Um, wrong. Apparently in this town men (grown men more specifically) on scooters are thought to be losers with too many DUIs, who can no longer legally drive and have resorted to getting around on a liquor-sicle, as they are otherwise and affectionately known.

The first clue should have been the snickers from his co-workers, men who drive manly cars, like SUVs or anything with the word magnum in its description. Our neighbor across the street plain out bust a gut when Kevin told him he bought a scooter. "You are legal to drive aren't you?" was his very next question. They just didn't seem to get it and neither did we.

Thankfully, our other neighbor, Ms Southern Hospitality, clued us in to its pseudonym. By this point however we had paid for the thing outright and have no recourse but to drive it back and forth everyday. The Fellini-esqueness has been sucked right out of our European scooter fantasy. Now it's left with a "My Name is Earl" residue. Bummer.