S is for: springtime, scooters, sentiment, and Stella

It’s springtime in Boston, and when the weather turns warm, my thoughts always wander back to my first love: Stella.

Me in France, circa 2008.

Me in France, circa 2008.

When I was living in a little French coastal town where trains didn’t go, buses were rare, and where I often relied on co-workers for rides or a borrowed bicycle, renting a scooter was my key to partial freedom. I don’t remember what brand it was and it didn’t go very fast, but coasting by the glittering Côte d’Azur seashore, riding the winding stretch of road between my lonely apartment and my somewhat directionless job, became the best part of my day.

forrest gump

Damn straight.

I felt like I had purpose, like Forrest Gump after discovering the joy of running.

A few years later, after I had moved to Boston, buying my own scooter gave me those familiar feelings of freedom and joyous independence. I’d had a rocky couple of years dealing with that whole trying-to-figure-out-life thing that occurs in your mid-to-late 20’s (or the entirety of your 20’s, for some of us)—and I was in limbo, not really knowing what the hell I was doing. I hated my job and was terrified of getting stuck in it, and was living on the outskirts of town where public transportation wasn’t the best with a volatile, bizarre set of roommates I had found on Craigslist (they always seem so normal at first, don’t they?). It was a strange time. The bus from my weird apartment to my weirder job came about once an hour, so you were kind of screwed if you missed it; the commute took over an hour, and it was, well, the bus. Even though a couple of years had passed since France, I found myself back in the same situation, albeit with more friends and family nearby.

So I decided to buy a scooter. This time I wanted the real thing: a Vespa, and one with a little more oomph. And this one would be all mine. It was a black one, an LX 150  (which means it can go up to about 60 miles per hour as opposed to a 50cc scooter, which only reaches about 40. Technically the higher speed ones are classified as motorcycles, so I had to get a motorcycle permit, which is pretty bad-ass…but I digress). I got a pink helmet, and I even convinced the sales guy to swap out the seat with pink lining from the all-pink Vespa to match.

She was perfect. I named her Stella.

It had been a few years since I had last ridden a scooter, so I was a tad nervous about jumping back on the wagon. Before leaving with my Vespa the sales guy said to me: “If you’re feeling nervous, you can just ease out of here the back way; there won’t be as much traffic and you can go a little slower.” He paused, I considered. Then he said: “Or, you could just ride right out onto Comm Ave. into the sunset like a fuckin’ cowboy.”

Well. When you put it that way…the decision was obvious.

Riding Stella was amazing, if I could put one word to it. Others that come to mind: invigorating, ridiculously fun, and again—freeing. I don’t think I stopped smiling during that entire first ride.

Actual me, circa 2011.

Actual me, circa 2011 in Boston.

Stella and I were inseparable. I rode her all around town; she took me on errands and to work every day, even when it got pretty cold or was raining. Just like when I was living in France, that commute turned into the best part of my day. I have never owned my own car. I know that people who love their cars will say, “it’s my baby.” Stella was mine.

Naysayers told me how dangerous it was, a silly, impractical purchase. My mom was, of course, freaking out. Contrary to popular opinion, it was actually really practical (I could go on about easy parking, the incredible gas mileage, much lower cost and less maintenance than a car, etc…), and I reasoned that it couldn’t be any more dangerous than riding a bicycle or even walking in Boston. And I would be careful.

Then one sunny August day, I was riding along happily, on my way to work (correction: semi-happily), and I pulled up behind a landscaping truck with a trailer hitched to the back at an intersection. We were sitting at a red light, waiting for it to turn green. Then, suddenly, the trailer started going in reverse, without warning (because WHO BACKS UP AT A RED LIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF AN INTERSECTION? The answer is Boston drivers). I sat there for a split second in shock, because I couldn’t process what was happening, and it happened so fast. Even when they hit me, I thought they would feel something and stop, but they just kept on going. I jumped off and got out of the way, standing there at the side of the road, waving my arms and screaming at them to stop, stop, STOP!!!!! and “What the fuck are you doing??!” They dragged my poor Stella a good ten feet before the idiots finally saw me, a sobbing, madly gesticulating girl in a pink helmet, face red from fury. One of my shoes had come off.

I was fine, save a minor sprained ankle and my feelings. A fire truck came needlessly and they made me take an ambulance ride to the hospital, which was quite exciting. But Stella. Poor, poor Stella. Done for. The only visible damage was the scratch on her side, but it was enough. She was totaled. I was unspeakably sad.

I'll get over it eventually (sniff).

I’ll get over it eventually (sniff).

The best part is obviously that I was unhurt; also, the landscapers were clearly at fault, so the cost of everything was covered and I got a decent settlement, so you could actually say I came out ahead. But I still miss Stella dearly. She and I had a good run for about a year and three months.

It wouldn’t really be practical now for me to get another scooter. I’m lucky that I can walk to work, and can ride the T or my boyfriend’s car anywhere else. I’m happy with my life and the direction it’s going. But I get sad and happy and envious all at once when I see someone riding a scooter. Because I know what it feels like.

Maybe one day I’ll get Stella 2.0. I still have the cover and a bunch of Microfiber polishing cloths, wax, and tire shine spray (impulse purchase) that I never used.

And I still have my pink helmet.

Someday.

Someday.

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