The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time


On another hot summer day, long ago:

It was, in fact, a glorious day to be on a motorbike in the mountains of Oregon. I was feeling it all: the vibrance of spring, the joy of wind, the snarl of a V-Twin, the bright warmth of the returning sun. I was on my third day of wafting around behind the pleated skirts of the Great State of Oregon, hiding from strangers and seeking solitude. It had been a bit since I had smiled at anyone – nor indeed had someone to smile at – for quite some time. As tired of humanity as I had gotten over the previous months, I was in no hurry to re-engage.

Funny how Fate likes to pick at your scabs!

I saw my first person as I crested a rise on a two-lane country road. I didn‘t know her, but there she was, and I slowed the bike. Maybe it was the glazed look in her eye in the hot sun, or maybe that she was holding a big pole with a “SLOW” sign on one side, and “STOP” on the other. I realized with an inward smirk that Fate had decided I was gonna need a sign in order to be human again.

I have a habit, on the bike, of making eye contact and recognition to certain people on the road; Other drivers at intersections where they‘re stopped, forklift drivers at the mills I visit, and yep, flaggers.

They often nod at me, these people I see, so I assume it is a thing to do. I suppose it could have just started with some random tow-truck driver and a pernicious mosquito just up under the beard, misinterpreted as a gesture that just grew from assumption, but then again! Eye contact with another of your species is an awakening thing. Just one human to another, it is written deep within us to hear and speak through our eyes. And using this makes communication possible when voice is of no use.

But I‘m getting ahead of myself – back to the road!

So I looked this flagger in the eye, and nodded to her before moving through. As I did, I saw an unusual thing. The woman had been very preoccupied staring off past me seemingly. But as I nodded, she came back to the moment, and even managed a bit of a smile before I rumbled by.

And I was reminded of this crazy skill we have, and use all the time. And yet, somehow we don‘t know we have it. We don‘t even know when we‘re using it.

There is just something warming about friendly silent recognition. Not the false smiles of extended conversations, or strained polite smiles. Not the sappy, venomous smiles of the opportunist.

Nope, just the freely-offered recognition that respects the commonality of being human.

In places where people meet, and know each other inside their community, it seems more common to have some respect for each other‘s humanity, regardless of other differences. The speaker can simultaneously speak with voice, and listen with their eyes.

I thought about that moment for quite some time, all through the next day and then home. I thought how it‘s effect, practiced every day by more people with the ones they‘re around, how much stronger we could hold on to the weak amongst us, whose minds lose their clarity and wind up doing horrible things. Maybe there wouldn‘t be so many of those people pushed beyond what they can bear.

And perhaps this is what I do, as a biker, there with my bright red helmet with moon-eyes on it. I see you. I see you standing at the crosswalk, or on the side of the highway. If you need help, you know instinctively how to say so. I see you, driving a semi in the other direction, trying to stay awake and pay the bills. I see your children, oggling out the backseat windows at the spectacle that is a biker. I see you, standing by the excavator with a shovel, trying to survive the summer sun, dreaming before I was there of your own bike, and the thirsty look when you first lay ears on my engine. I see your life, within you, trying to shine.

I would tell you more if we talked maybe. But then again, maybe today you just need someone -anyone – say, “I see you.”

We are both human, you and I. I respect you as an equal human. Now we can start!


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