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Travels With An Airhead

First Times

— by Notch Miyake

I was checking out at the dump the other day when the woman in the booth looked suspiciously at me and asked, "Are you a senior citizen?"

"What's a senior citizen?"

"Over 55."

"So what if I am?"

"You get a 10% discount."

"I'll think about it."

"It's worth fifty cents."

"OK, I give up," I said.

She smirked as she handed me my change.

My first senior citizen's discount. At the dump. Fifty cents.

Somehow, it didn't have the same exhilarating feeling as other firsts. Among firsts, it ranked slightly above the first invitation I got to join the AARP, and slightly below the first time I noticed in the barber shop that most of the clippings were gray. Only the fifty-cent discount prevented it from being the lowest.

I didn't even feel the usual small triumph over the discount, like when you score on a two-for-the-price-of-one sale.

Speaking about triumphs, my first solo ride was on a Triumph Tiger Cub borrowed from a friend. Now that was a first that ranked right up with the big one. You know, in the back seat of the '57 Chevy or the hayloft if you grew up on a farm.

It was that special silvery color that Triumph used in the fifties, with a black frame. The shifter was on the right and the rear brake on the left.

I was only fourteen, but I had a learner's permit. Hawaii let kids get their motorcycle license a year earlier than their automobile license.

I rode the Cub from my friend's house to my house and back. Wearing a white T-shirt with no writing on it and blue jeans with the cuffs turned up about four inches. No helmet or eye protection. No comments from the MSF crowd, please.

I didn't drop it and only stalled once. I flooded it so I had to roll the bike to the curb to kick-start it.

It was an ordinary day. But on the ride, everything felt fresh and new, even though I had been on that road many times. The colors were brighter, the air sweeter, the people nicer.

Luckily, we live in a place where we can relive that first ride every spring. I hope by now you have had yours. Didn't it rank right up there with the big one?

— Copyright © 2000 by Notch Miyake.

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