I’m Steve McQueen, the Cooler King. I lean forward on the handlebars, rub my chin, rev the engine and stare at the obstacle in front. It’s not going to be easy. Things could get ugly.
“What are you waiting for?” Andy shouts in my ear.
I look at the obstacle again; it’s far too dangerous to attempt without due consideration. I half push, half drive the scooter to the kerb just as a couple of cars whoosh past us.
“Oh, for god’s sake,” exclaims Andy. “It’s only a roundabout.”
My second attempt in a zillion years at mastering a two-wheeled mean machine (i.e. scooter) resulted in as much humiliation as my first did when I was eighteen. That time was in Mallorca when three of us, instead of tootling down country lanes, ended up on the motorway to Palma, set grimaces of fear on our faces as we were jeered on by a chorus of car horns.
One of my friends crashed into a fruit stall whilst taking a corner at about 5 kph, thankfully resulting in a few squashed melons and nothing else. I crashed after starting the thing whilst I wasn’t actually on it and my third mate, Jimmy Dean’d it through the mass of traffic never to be seen again.
I’ve kept away from scooters ever since, so when I heard I was being supplied with one to drive from Costa Teguise up to Teguise on Lanzarote for a meeting with the mayor, my ‘YAY’ was lacking in enthusiasm somewhat. But, hey, the years had passed. I was older, wiser and am usually pretty competent at things I try.
The first sight of the gleaming white machine had me yearning to be a cool muchacho about town. But the intervening years had changed nada. I couldn’t even start it. I had to be helped by assorted staff at Sands Beach Resort including the Managing Director; even then it still involved a phone call to Blue Speed who’d supplied what looked like a brand spanking new scooter.
Time was short and I didn’t have long to practice in the car park before Andy jumped on the back (bless her trust in me) and we wobbled unconvincingly into the unsuspecting Lanzarote traffic.
Luckily the Costa Teguise roads are quiet which gave me time to build a bit of confidence before we joined the main road to Teguise in the hills where an experience of total embarrassment and humiliation awaited.
The problem was that although I felt confident enough on the straight, I just couldn’t make the thing turn corners without following the sort of curve that a Japanese super tanker would have required.
We reached Teguise in one piece and even had time to visit a Pirate Museum on a hill before it was time to meet the mayor. I’d worked out the route between the museum and the bar where we were due to hook up with him and was able to do it in straight lines, thereby arriving looking relatively like a savvy traveller used to mastering all modes of transport.
Humiliation was, however, lurking in the shadows.
I managed to get into the town on a straight line but getting out involved negotiating narrow streets.
At the end of the first was a T-junction where I had to go left. On the corner stood an old man.
As I approached the junction he helpfully indicated that the road was clear and waved me on.
Did I mention the streets were incredibly narrow. There was no way I could make the left turn. But I had to try to attempt it.
Damned if the machine (or my rigid hands) defied me and refused to attempt even the slightest of curves. Instead of turning left, the bike shot ahead and, under the old man’s bemused gaze, I drove straight into the pavement directly opposite.
Andy didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
With head down, I bumped the bike until it was facing left and, totally avoiding looking at the old guy who had a new ‘daft tourist’ tale to tell down his local, set off in a straight line again with what little confidence I had totally shot to hell.
By the time I reached the roundabout that was in-between us and the hotel and safety, my bottle had completely gone. It was a big roundabout but we had to go all the way around it and I just knew I couldn’t make the turn.
I’ve shared enough uncoolness for one day, so how we got around the roundabout shall remain a secret… but it was pathetic to witness. I would have understood if Andy had demanded a divorce there and then.
I just have to accept that scooters are not, and never will be, my thing.
Everybody else in the universe seems to look really cool on scooters but for me it’s less hellrider and more hellishrider.