Saturday, November 27, 2010

The People You Meet Out There

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a people person; definitely a type A personality.  The cliche phrase "never met a stranger" could have been coined for me.  Besides the ride itself, meeting and talking with strangers is one of the main aspects of the Alaskapade I really look forward to.  I believe most people respond in kind when greeted by a stranger as long as their personal space isn't violated and the greeting genuine.  Still, not everyone is friendly.  Not everyone wants to be friendly.  In fact, some people should just be left alone.  An example of this happened to me on my west coast trip last summer.

I was stopped for gas in Arizona and I observed a kid on a Sportster who appeared to be waiting for customers to drive off and then squeezing the pump handle for whatever extraneous fuel might be left in the hose. (Does that even work on modern pumps?)  It was August in Arizona and it was really really hot, even in the shade of the gas station.  I watched him as I was filling Hester's tank.  He looked at least purposeful, if not hopeful.  I briefly wondered how long he had been there trying.

I’ve been broke a few times in my adult life, so the type A in me piped up and offered to fill his tank saying “hey buddy, you need some gas?” Without looking up at me, he shook his head and declined.  My tank full, I called over to him and said "I'm gonna roll...last offer".  This time, he looked up, seemed to scan the horizon for other options, and then reluctantly agreed. I filled his Sportster's peanut tank and went in to buy a couple of bottles of water for us. When I got out of the store, he was peeling off. I noticed the word “PROSPECT” on the bottom of the back his vest. I couldn't see what club he was prospecting.

I headed out and rode a good 230 miles before stopping to gas up and cool down again. As I was filling, I noticed a large group of bikes parked under the awning of a rest stop adjacent to the gas station. I was sitting on Hester doing the squeeze-drip-squeeze routine with the nozzle to top off the tank when two from the group approached me.  One was the kid for whom I bought gas. The other was a cliche looking biker type with "1%" and “13” patches among other severely faded insignias. I found myself wondering how the kid got that far ahead of me on such a small tank of gas rather than being concerned that they were clearly walking toward me.

As they approached me, the elder asks the kid something that I couldn't hear, but I heard the kid say “yeah, him”. Before I could dismount, they were standing inches from me and the elder shoved a $5 bill into my shirt pocket saying “He ain't your brother!.” For some reason, as they walked away I piped up and said “I said buddy, not brother and I didn't see a patch". Without looking back at me, the elder said “he won’t ever get one if he don’t figure his way out of his own shit.

For those who don't know, members of hardcore motorcycle clubs ofter call each other "brother".  It's a fraternal right they feel they've earned in the process of earning their club patch and in their eyes, no one outside the club has the right to call them that. I knew the rule, but never associated this kid with a 1% club. Turns out these guys were Mongols. The Mongols have a long, somewhat sordid history, especially in Arizona. Other than PGR missions, that was my first encounter in 32 years or riding with a 1% club. They pretty much ignored me as I rode off.

I related this event to some riding friends who told me that the kid was prospecting (trying to join) the Mongols and that I had probably interfered with a test the club was putting him through.  Reading some of the stories about the Mongols on the Internet, I suppose I should feel fortunate that all I got was a five dollar bill out of the deal.