Spots of Bother: Surfing the Slippery Slope Straight to Hell
July 1, 2005
"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
--George Orwell, NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR
It began with a small worry pimple on the chin. It soon spread to my cheeks, nose and forehead. Now MKA's face is one big cherry red, pus-filled, carbuncular Spot of Bother.
It all began a few months ago when a judge in Los Angeles agreed with the Blue Coats that the latter could literally do no wrong. Yes, they could be dumb -- stupid even -- but as long as their neglect was imaginable, then they would remain forever immune from accountability. You might recall a few years ago when everybody's favorite pretty boy Ricky Skweeker was flipped in the air like a ragdoll when a motorcycle official decided to abruptly stop within a fart's throw of the finish line. Ricky incurred a bunch of medical bills and a mangled FU finger. His bike was totaled.
A few weeks later he asked the culpable party to simply pay for his bills. Said party refused. Ricky was then forced to file suit for damages. It never got to a jury, as the Judge sided with the USCF that the waiver gave the latter carte blanche to ride roughshod over the welfare of cyclists, who as a breed are presumed to enjoy depredations, insults and savagery of all kinds.
Now, some of you may believe that a good lawyer can always bust a grossly unconscionable waiver. It's just a scrap of paper, after all. And some of you may believe that our beloved USCF would never strip one of its poster boys of his life, liberty or Italian loafers without "Hey Dude" process. But you would be wrong. Every time you sign that waiver, you are signing away your rights, and putting your life in the hands of what amounts to a bipolar prison doctor who radically swings from apathy to sadism. So MKA's going to translate the release for you now in plain English. Please review:
2005 Waiver of Life, Property and Dignity and Grant of Absolute Immunity to Blue Coats and their Agents Who Are More Than Likely to Put Me in Harm's Way As I Foolishly Place My Faith and My Money in the Hands of Pasty Faced, Pot Bellied Idiots
I, ________________, acknowledge that I am old enough to know better but young enough to not care.
By signing the below, I am agreeing to bend over, grab my ankles, and take it up high and hard with an unslickened Louisville Slugger coiled with rusty barbed wire. [initial here _____]
I agree that cycling is a stoopid sport, that the Blue Coats are well-intentioned boobs who don't intend to maim, gouge or kill us, they just get forgetful or dizzy from all the stress of sacrificing so much for the good of the sport. [initial here _____]
I agree that if an zebra-striped Evel Knievel smacks into me and I break my neck I will try real hard to hang on just long enough to tell my tormentor that I love and forgive him before I fade away. [initial here _____]
I agree that the $2.00 insurance premium I pay when I enter a race is a ruse, that I'll never actually be entitled to receive any restitution for any bodily injury or property damage, but I accept the venerated concept that insurance is vital and indispensable, added to which it's a really good grift I wish I could get in on. [initial here _____]
I agree that if an Evel Knievel should spot a half-eaten Krispy Kreme in the gutter and suddenly swerve towards same, but in so doing collide with me, causing me to flip over the motorbike, land on my head and crack my skull, I will promise to buy my tormentor a bakers dozen when I get out of the ICU in the event another salivating Blue Coat should retrieve the wholesome bounty first. Or a coney dog. [initial here _____]
I agree that bike race promoters and Blue Coats are inherently Angelic and I assume the certainty that when they abuse, neglect, relegate, deek or degrade me I will not hold them accountable in any way because the magnificent public benefits they provide far outweigh the utility of my skin, collarbones, lungs, liver, brain or self-respect. I would only ask that when I pass on from my wounds and they confiscate and sell my organs that some of the money (at least $.12k) go to my wife and children. [initial here _____]
I agree not to complain about late fees, even when the average transaction time at the pre-reg table is much longer than at the "day of race" entry line. I agree not to complain when the officials are more than three hours late posting the sheets on the winner board, and I will accept my $12 gratefully. I agree that forgetting to sign in before each stage is a mortal sin and hereby tender the mortgage on my house in my feeble effort to make the USCF whole for said abomination. [initial here _____]
I agree that the Blue Coat is my Lord God Saviour and I shalt have no other Gods before Her, as She is a Jealous God, who will visit iniquity on my children, spouse, girlfriend, dog or cat should I stray from the path of groveling servitude and indulge the earthly pleasures of a hassle-free race non-USCF race with an obscenely generous cash prize list. I agree that only a False, Cackling, Slovenly or otherwise Corpulent Idol would dare show mercy on me and deliver a solid product at a fair price; and furthermore, I prefer to be gouged, browbeaten, hectored and scolded by nitwits who in my regular life I would not hesitate to pummel, flick, fire, bury or dismember.
Your Name Here Credit Card Number (with 4 digit secret code)
In the end, our impeccably mannered, inveterately cheerful, sartorially resplendent plaintiff got kicked to the curb like an ant-infested soup can. Poured out like dirty water. Your venerable Blue Coats decided your money was best spent hiring a team of lawyers to crush an honest attempt by an honest man to get his bills covered. They won, handily, but they didn't even celebrate, almost as if they were embarrassed by their judicially sanctioned unbridled piggishness. As a show of grace, please note that Our Mother agreed to waive all costs and fees -- an act of liberal largesse resulting in an outrageous windfall worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the plaintiff. Believe me, when MKA wins a case, he doesn't show quarter. Why? Because the loser was guilty as sin and my guy, the winner, was pure as the driven snow, and whatever he got, it wasn't enough. Kick a man when he's down? Damn right, if he's guilty. You know who shows quarter? Answer: The Damned and the Guilt-ridden.
* * *
Cool Rules: We make 'em [up], You break 'em
But there's more. A few weeks later Sqweeker found himself on a country road in the San Luis Rey race. Nature called. So he whipped it out and watered the weeds. Now, we all know that cyclists thrive on the misfortune of others. A guy crashes, or flats, the pel speeds up. It's a cruel reality. B there's an exception. Guy's got to take a whiz, other guys will kindly steady the whizzer's steed (not the whistle). I've seen this done many times, and have always been touched by the humanity, but I could never do it myself as, one, MKA simply lacks the bike handling skills and, two, an acute case of urine intolerance. MKA doesn't mind so much splashing himself with his own wastewater, but would rather not risk getting sprayed by another.
Anyhow, by voiding his bladder in the middle of nowhere my boy Sweeky certainly didn't secure an unfair strategic advantage. Nonetheless, after finishing the race, placing third, it was announced that he had been deeked. As it turns out, the Evel Knievel witnessed the whizzardry and wrote him up. Meeker, of course, sought an explanation:
RS: "Says here I got disqualified. What for?"
Blue Coat (a female): "You broke a rule."
RS: "What rule?"
BC: "The rule against public urination."
RS: "The rule against public urination? Where's that in the USCF rule book?
BC: "It's not. But there's a rule against bad sportsmanship, and that's close enough."
RS: "Bad sportsmanship? Wait a minute. Have you ever heard of Mother Nature?"
BC: "Well, yes. Yes I have."
RS: "Good. Now when Mother Nature calls, what am I supposed to do, hang up?"
BC: "You're supposed to obey the higher law, the Blue Coat law, which forbids public displays of bodily secretions from the One Eyed Jack."
RS: "But there's no port-a-potty around, no gas station, no 7-11, what am I supposed to do, pee in my chamois?"
BC: "You should better prepare for this sport. Maybe don't drink so much. It's not for the weak of heart or small of bladder."
RS: "Great, so now we gotta piss in our pants so we won't get deeked by the meat whistle watchers."
BC: "Mr. Meeker, I don't like your tone. Henceforth, please report to the Blue Coats at the conclusion of every race for the next two years. We want to check your shorts for urine stains in excess of background levels. And your socks and shoes. "
* * *
Don't Bother Me, I'm Looking Official
A few weeks later MKA is off the front solo in a scrubby desert high chaparral near the US-Mexican border. Two lane highway. Scorching hot. Scorpions spontaneously combusting. Up ahead MKA sees convoy of trucks and trailers puttering along. Although there's no shoulder, MKA atempts to pass on the jagged outer lip of the pavement. Sort of like trying to navigate a unicycle down a cable on the Golden Gate Bridge, but instead of violent gusts of wind MKA's got to deal petulant cowboys in two ton diesel doolies whipsawing their big ass horse trailers. MKA hits the dirt, kicks up a few rocks, and keeps grinding. If anger could generate electricity, there'd be enough voltage shooting out from the cabs of the trucks collectively to light up Baghdad. Why are we going so slow? Who's holding up the show? MKA fears he may be targeted for the sins of his brothers.
After dodging the business end of a few more rear trailer mirrors, MKA gets close enough to see what's clogging the toilet. These aren't my brothers. These are four (4) pear-shaped leadbelly lovelies nonchalantly sundialing for a total of 8 breasts abreast. Fanned out from the center line to the edge, like a dragnet, all within the watchful eye of a guardian Blue Coat. Four ladies casually pedaling, chatting away, pretending to race, while the traffic pressure behind neared the exploding point. This, MKA thought, is a perfect storm for road rage. Fearing imminent carnage, MKA blew by the cluck-clucks and got the hell out of there.
Ok. That's not a big deal. The ladies probably felt like the important work they were doing justified holding up 71 horse-pulling cowboys on a Saturday afternoon. After-all, the Blue Coats had sanctioned their passive-aggressive roadhogging by casting what amounted to rolling pig sty enclosure. You can't blame a hog for being a hog, but you can question the wisdom of a swineherd who knowingly allows his porkers to grunt, snorkle and belly drag across a major thoroughfare.
After the race, MKA, feeling noble and a little superior, approached the Blue Coats gazing absently up in their air traffic control tower. MKA wanted to alert them to a potentially hazardous situation, one that could foreseeably lead to bodily injury and at the very least the rejection of future road race permits. As MKA began making his case, the Blue Coats from up high shussed me away like a blinkered horsefly. There would be many good reasons to do this: bad breath, a tendency towards swirling bloviation, and a checkered history of devious wedging and tomfoolery, for example. Instead, MKA was ordered to vacate on grounds he was interfering with the Blue Coat's sovereign mandate to spot and record race numbers. MKA swiveled around to check the racing action: nobody in sight for miles. Crickets.
This of course was the same Victor Hugo-gian Bloke who spearheaded the ill-conceived campaign to not only suspend Evander BRBs from racing but also build a laughably preposterous criminal case against him. To bring you up to speed, last year a young turk got fresh with our beloved big bad bear (who would never hurt a flea unless said flea punched him on or about the nose). The Turk wound up with a bloody nose himself and that's when the fun started. Before you could say "false charges" the USCF had engaged their scary lawyers to throw the book at ET, while the Turk doggedly pursued his "poor pitiful me" complaint with the Ventura County D.A.'s office.
We all know that false accusations are like cockroaches: under the cover of darkness, they flourish, but a flick of the light switch and they scatter to the grimy nooks and crannies. After bumbling about, the Big Blues finally got around to actually reading their cool rules, thought about what they meant, the lights switched on, and they contritely dislodged the Pig Iron Boot from their arse. All charges dismissed. The District Attorney's office soon did the same, and BRBs was allowed to torment the pelaton again with his juvenile bunny hops, wheelies and howdy-doody tall tales of winning BMX races on two broken legs.
Tax the Rich
Not all Blue Coats are humorless stuffed shirts. They are vulnerable to the tug of comedy. We know this because Billy and MKA saw their pursed lips pry apart and heard the titters escaping the vault at the wildly successful San Clemente Challenge. Of course it takes a special kind of low-brow, slapsticky, pie-in-the-face comedy to produce this result, the kind of childish humor that only pros like Billy and MKA can pull off, so please don't try this yourself.
Come to think, why shouldn't the Blue Coats be having a jolly good time? We're talking about a sport that relies on volunteers to raise the money, promote the events, and organize and manage the races (and sometimes keep the peace). The only ones guaranteed a paycheck (nominal as it is), plus the Blimpies and M&Ms, are the Blue Coats. In fact, they should be laughing their asses off.
Take San Clemente. MKA goes out and raises an $8,000 cash prize list. In order to build an alliance between the CBR and the Blue Coats, MKA approached the latter's agents to broker a deal. We do everything: we get the city permits, we work with the sheriffs, we secure the course, we advertise the gig, we recruit the vols. In return, they bring in their crew of number spotters, and we pay them a non-negotiable fee. In forging this alliance, we collectively send a message that both groups will bury the hatchet for the greater good. All we ask is that they don't penalize us for doing good by taxing our prize list. As you may know, if the cash prize list is under $2,000, the promoter will not have to pay a 7% "tax the rich" fee. [That's why you sometimes see a $1,999" prize list - that extra dollar will cost you an additional $140].
To their credit, they saw the wisdom of the deal, and they agreed. The SCNCA (that is, the SNACKAKES) even gave the course a high points ranking [2.0], even though we all know the California Cup is bogus [they promised MKA a jersey for winning the cup in 2004 but never delivered, which is deeply upsetting, as MKA needs all the oil rags he can get]. After our Jehovah Witnessed trained shake down artists (spearheaded by Sainted Mother) raised over $3,000 worth of primes, after we paid for ads in Velo News, and obtained all the permits from City Hall, just before race day, the shylocks from SNACKAKES said "oh by the way" we need to shake you down for the 7% tax.
A very ugly thing, breaking promises. Bothersome. MKA trotted out his biggest squirt gun and threatened to soak all the Snookas "vigorously" for their 11th hour breach. With one hand on the plug, the other on my super soaker, it was very tense, sort of like the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I'm sure all would've been lost if not for the masterful intervention of Muttley, who brokered a deal. Now, MKA would disclose the terms of that deal, but the muckety-mucks over at SNACKAKEs asked MKA real nicely to keep all of this flapdoodle "confidential." In an odd twist of logic, they lowered the event ranking from a 2.0 to a 1.5.
The race happened, and despite the event quality relegation, a bunch of guys came down and competed (125 entered the 30 plus race). Some very fast guys won, and they were handsomely rewarded for their efforts. The only sour note was of course the sundialer talk-pedal-talkathon. Before the race, our good friend Suzanne Sonye gritched that the babes ought to get at least $500 (there's no harm in asking) because she was going to personally recruit a big field that would pay for itself and put on quite a good show. We love self-sufficiency (and grit), so we relented. Well, about 25 dialers showed up and if you were an insomniac, and you stared at the slow mo show long enough, you would've enjoyed your deep and luxurious snooze. To her credit, a chastened Ms. Suzie got fed up and has been racing with the men every since. That lady's got sack.
" * *
MKA will spare his readers the usual recitation of excuses for what has amounted to a lackluster season. There was one moment, however, that stands out as rewarding. Hood River Stage Race. The pelaton turned off a country road onto a BLM logging road that wound up through a dense old growth forest. It was Oregon, so it was raining, gently, and the air was chilly. Lush wet bushes spilled out onto the lichen and moss covered roads. A thick blanket of fog mixed with rain hovered between the trees, sheltering the understory in darkness. The pack quickened its pace. The Riddler (Maguire) attacked solo and soon disappeared into the woods.
MKA felt alive. He was doing something few people today would choose to do. Racing his bike in a rain forest on narrow, slimy, slick logging roads that seemed to climb forever. Miserable, perhaps, but somehow exhilarating. MKA decided to join his fleeing compatriot, and bridged across. It took a while, splashing through the puddles, the giant ferns heavy with draindrops slapping me in the face, but eventually MKA met up with the Riddler, who was happily visiting a warm and salubrious place beyond his corporal self. "Hey, Roger, good to see," he welcomed. Suffused with enthusiasm, The Riddler poured on the compliments. "Class act. Class Act." A former carnation of MKA wouldv'e found fault with such cheerfulness. But this MKA savored it, and set about working hard towards something grand. He had no idea of what was ahead, he just knew it was cold, wet, and wonderful. We hit a very steep grade and MKA's supply of energy seemed endless. MKA didn't feel the need to look back, it seemed so perfect, we were going so hard, surely the pel had shattered. Surely they were leagues behind us. Perhaps they have even given up.
Euphoria is a rare experience, and while immersed in same, enjoy for all its worth. The joy doesn't come often, and when it does, it doesn't last very long. Ten minutes later, MKA had been caught, gutted, and tossed aside like a dethroned King Salmon. For the next 40 miles or so, MKA was a self-exiled prisoner beseiged by a metastatic spot of bother, so crippling, so dispiriting, so draining, so unshakeably malignant, that MKA now dreams of the day when the gun goes off, the racers click in, the peloton throttles down, without him.