At Tim’s instructions, the students moved the bikes into position for the next riding exercise.
“Dan,” Tim said as he dragged me aside by the chain that attached my wallet to my belt. “You have to let the students learn on their own. It’s the new way of doing things.”
“What, you’re telling me I should’ve let that woman struggle?”
I felt my frustration growing and feared that no matter what I said or did Tim would find a reason to criticize.
“What I’m telling you is that she’ll eventually get it.”
“What if she doesn’t?” I asked, knowing full well that I had him in a position where he had to think outside the curriculum box.
“Some do and some don’t. Those that don’t will have to leave”
Our conversation occurred away from the students, but they knew there was friction between the two of us. My hope was that it wouldn’t interfere with their learning.
With the students huddled around Tim, he read instructions while I demonstrated the three parts of the next exercise. After dismounting and positioning myself, I observed my half of the divided class who had been spread out in twenty-foot intervals. It hadn’t been by design, but Margaret and Jason became part of my group and were positioned next to each other.
As the exercise unfolded I noted that Jason, comfortably sitting astride an on/off road dual-purpose bike and the four other students mounted on cruiser-styled bikes, quickly grasped the operation of the throttle and clutch. Margaret grew frustrated as she repeatedly stalled. Mindful that the curriculum frowned on excessive one-on-one coaching, I approached her and asked if she wanted help. She nodded and from the look in her eyes, she welcomed it. A quick glance to where Tim had positioned himself approximately fifty feet away showed he was immersed in observing his six students, which buffered me from comments.
I took a moment or two to manipulate her smallish, gloved hands while they were on the controls to try to establish a muscle memory. She nodded; a warm thank you radiated from her eyes. Jason’s eyes welcomed my attention to his mother’s needs, and if he hadn’t been wearing a full-faced helmet I might have seen a smile on his face.
With minimal stalling she made it through the second portion of the exercise. Her breathing had become rapid and shallow, which I knew from prior experience represented extreme nervousness. When we moved on to the third part of the exercise her tenseness interfered with the operation of the motorcycle. I approached her and reminded her to breathe slowly and to relax. She again nodded.
Her son and the other four students made the first pass with both feet on the motorcycle’s foot pegs. Margaret managed to pick up her feet, but fell over as she attempted to stop. Anxiety had caused her to attack the controls and lock the motorcycle’s brakes. I helped her to her feet, checked that she hadn’t been hurt, picked up the bike, turned it around, and then asked her to re-mount and try it again.
Minimal attention and a word here and there corrected any significant flaws for Jason and the other four students leaving me more time to spend with Margaret. Her next two passes resulted in additional falls.
Each time she fell I waved off Jason’s attempt to dismount his motorcycle and come to her aid.
“She’ll be okay Jason. It’s just a tip over — happens all the time. It’s all part of the learning process.”
Tim signaled to me that the time allotted for the exercise had ended. I motioned back that two more passes should be made and ran them despite his signal.
“You didn’t allow that woman to work it out on her own,” Tim chastised during the mandatory break.
“Her name’s Margaret, remember? She’s wearing a nametag.”
“You should have coached her the same way you did the others. I don’t care if she is a strikingly good-looking woman.”
The difference in our height made it appear that he was literally and figuratively talking down to me.
“Didn’t you listen to the introductions? She’s never ridden before. She needed additional coaching and her looks have nothing to do with it. If it had been her son or one of the other guys, I’d have done the same.”
“Why did you run two more passes when I said to end the exercise?”
“They were necessary for her development and it didn’t hurt the others either. Why don’t you watch the students instead of your stopwatch? You might learn something about their development.”
“You’re not helping yourself.”
Margaret continued to struggle and fell over a few more times. She never really managed to overcome her nervousness. Tim and I continued to struggle as well. Each attempt to further explain a minor muscle movement resulted in chiding and reminders that the students would acquire the skill on their own. I knew better than to argue despite knowing full well that they wouldn’t understand why they did what they did — or compensate for what they didn’t know was missing.
During another break Paul, Dude, and “red helmet” called me aside.
Paul frowned. “He’s really riding you, isn’t he?”
“I wouldn’t take that from anyone,” Dude said, directing his anger toward Tim.
“He’s okay,” I quipped between sips of cold coffee. “He just has a funny way of showing affection.”
There was no reason to share my possible suspension with the students. Nor did I want to put them into a position of choosing allegiance.
“Red helmet” shook his head. “It’s nice to know that you care. I think that it’s great that you’re helping Margaret. Somehow, I know that if it were one of us you’d do the same.”
Little did he know that the things they liked about my approach would be my downfall.
After the last exercise of their riding day the group headed for their cars. I grabbed a stack of marker cones to re-set the training site for the afternoon group.
“Dan,” Margaret called as she headed toward me. Definitely “…I’ll dream of her tonight….” “Thank you for spending additional time with me. I know that Tim scolded you about it.”
“Don’t worry. We’ve had a love/hate relationship since the day we met. He loves me because of my training skills, but I hate him because of his inflexibility. Come back next week and finish what you started. I want you to do me a favor though.”
“Name it,” she said with a smile.
“Relax, do this because you want to, and breathe every once in awhile.”
“I’ll try,” she said while turning and heading toward a luxury SUV.
Her teardrop-shaped butt encased in designer jeans momentarily hypnotized me.
“Dan,” Sean shouted as he left the portable toilet.
“Yes,” I answered, rudely snapped back to consciousness.
“Stop hitting on my mother. You’ve done everything but sniff the bike’s seat.”
His attack took me by surprise.
“I’m not hitting on your mother. I’m trying to teach her to ride.”
“You’re hitting on her, and I want you to stop. If you do it again next week, I’ll file a complaint.”
I wondered if his anger had been toward me — or toward his mother and her growing skills.
“File it now – wait – I’ll help. Tim, could you come over here for a second? Sean wants to file a complaint. He’s accusing me of hitting on his mother.” A complaint of that kind could seal my fate and my suspension could be immediate. I left Tim and Sean and continued to re-set the riding range. I glanced back and watched as Tim wrote something in his ever-present notepad.
Sean stalked over to his mom’s SUV, got in, and then the three of them drove off.
Before the afternoon group began Tim gave me an ass-ripping. “Dan, he’s made a serious charge against you.”
“I didn’t hit on her. I worked with her a little more that the others because she needed it. The kid’s got an attitude because he resents being here with her. Believe him if you want, but I know what I’ve done and it wasn’t hitting.”
“Suit yourself, but I have to report this.”
“Do what you have to – I won’t fight it. Plus, I think that you’ve already decided to suspend me regardless of what I do from here on.”
“If I can line up someone else for next week, I’ll do so.”
“Knock yourself out,” I said fully resigned that this would be my last group of trainees.
Everyone in the afternoon group had ridden for some time and the course, for them, was a licensing formality. After they finished we packed up the cones, put the bikes away, and then called it a day.
“I’ll e-mail you about your status for next week,” Tim said as he headed to his truck. “You were much better this afternoon.”
I’d been “much better” because no one in the group needed special help.
I headed toward the toilet and walked out of it wearing a black calf length pleated skirt, pantyhose and two-inch wedge, knee-high boots, and then headed toward my car as fast as the skirt and heels would allow.
Thoughts of the day crowded my mind during the homeward trip. It bothered me that my teaching techniques had been questioned by both Tim and that jerkwater kid. I’d been teaching motorcycling for more years than that kid had been alive and my original certification date exceeded Tim’s by five years. The kid didn’t bother me as much as Tim’s chastising and the threat of suspension. I wondered if he could’ve taught a person to ride without the curriculum. My thoughts would be for naught because I wouldn’t change my methods, due to the fact that they were far superior to anything that the state could work out.
As my anger with Tim, the state, and the curriculum subsided, thoughts of Margaret filled me. Her tight body belied her age. Forty-four year old women didn’t look like her. Under different circumstances I might have tried to date and bed her. Unfortunately she’d be “G/U” Geographically Unacceptable, but aside from the distance, I wondered — could I fall for her, and she for me?