I have an old EX500 that I love dearly, even though it's been a pain in the ass for a long time. It's the bike that was on loan to a coworker when it got stolen a while ago. The bike is old enough to vote, and has been buying alcohol with a fake ID for a while now. I rode it to work a couple of weeks ago and stopped at my friends' bike shop for coffee on the way to work.
"Is that here for service?"
"Have you ever seen this bike come in and leave without needing repair?"
He thought for a moment. "No, I don't think I have."
"There's a first time for everything."
However, I asked him to come out and listen to the noise it made when I started it. "That's your starter clutch. Ride it until it blows up."
"How long will that be?"
"Maybe tomorrow, maybe two years from now. Who knows?"
The next day I killed the battery trying to start the bike to get home. Dammit. I parked it in the motorcycle parking behind my office and then later took the battery home to charge.
Last night I went to put the freshly-charged battery in the bike, and the bike wasn't there. WTF? A call to the SFPD let me know that it had been towed for being parked illegally. As it turns out, I parked the bike legally but someone moved it across the street. Grumble.
I went to AutoReturn, forked over $274 to get the bike back (under protest, since I didn't park it illegally-- she gave me the address of the brick wall that I can argue my case with) then went over to the lot to get the bike. My plan was to push it out to the street, put the battery in it, get it running, then come back the next morning after I dropped my car off to get the top replaced and ride it to work.
AutoReturn employees are... well... the sort of people you'd expect to work in the city's tow lot. I'm pretty sure this guy didn't make the honor roll before he dropped out of seventh grade. As we walked across the lot I tried not to think too hard about why he had four band-aids on his face-- there was no possible explanation that I wanted to consider. When we got to the bike he cheerfully informed me that there was a ticket in the fairing. Great.
I noticed a big gouge in the fairing. "The bike has been damaged."
"Yeah." I pointed to the jagged white lines in the black plastic. "Those weren't there before." I looked at the tank and found a gouge in the paint. "Neither was that." I walked around the bike, and discovered one of the mirrors was broken. "That mirror was there when I parked the bike. Oh, and the front fender is cracked."
"I'll give you a claim form."
Woohoo! Now I get to bang my head against two brick walls... it's my lucky day!
I started to push my bike toward the gate, and he stopped me. "You can't do that. You either have to ride it or have it towed out."
"I can't ride it... I don't have a helmet. Besides, the battery is in the trunk of my car."
After a bit of something that bore a disturbing resemblance to actual thinking on his part, or maybe it was just gas pains, he allowed as how it would be OK if I sat on the bike and waddled it out of the lot. We got to the guard station at the gate, wherein I filled out a form listing the damage, took pictures, and made sure that my escort clearly saw every bit of damage. "There may be more. I won't know until I take it to my mechanic for an inspection." I can just imagine those clowns bending the forks or something.
Finally I was allowed to go. I pushed the bike out to the street, then moved my car up behind it. I went to install the battery and got my next surprise-- the battery bolts were gone! No doubt they got jarred loose as the bike bounced around while getting towed. Great. I briefly pondered the roll of duct tape that was in the trunk of my car, but thought better of it. I looked at the time-- 7:30. My friends' bike shop was only three blocks away, and while they close at 6 they usually worked past then. I made a mad dash over and caught Paul just as he was about to get on his bike and take off, but he was happy to go back in and supply a set of bolts.
Back at the bike I got the battery installed and then tried to start it. No dice. Hrmm. Oh, cute. Somebody turned off the fuel tap. I turned it on, tried again, and got the bike started. It ran for about five seconds before stalling. OK, no problem. It's always cranky about starting. I tried again, nothing. Again, but this time the bike made a loud popping noise, and instead of cranking I heard a whirring noise from the starter.
OK, now I know exactly how long the starter clutch had to live. Fuck. I pushed the bike across Harrison and onto a side street, and noticed that the block was one hour parking. This time the duct tape seemed like a good idea, and taped a note to the tank: "Dear DPT: Please be lenient. AutoReturn damaged the bike yesterday. I will have it towed to the shop ASAP. Love and kisses, Patti"
This morning, while stuck in non-moving bridge traffic, I called my mechanic-- it's always a bad sign when you have him on speed dial. "Hey, I'm going to ask you a question and you have to promise to answer 100% honestly."
"You hate my bike, you never want to see it again, and you don't have any time to deal with it, right?"
"What happened?" I gave him the short version. "OK, bring it by." I tried to talk him into letting me have it towed home so I could do the work myself, but he was having none of it. "If we do it, we'll be able to point out the other three things that broke at the same time." He had a stunningly good point, as well as an excellent working knowledge of the bike.
"I also need you to write an estimate for some damage that AutoReturn did when they towed it yesterday. I'll explain later."
After sitting on the bay bridge for an hour, I dropped my car off at the shop to get the slashed top replaced, then caught a cab to the office just in time for my 11 a.m. meeting. At lunch I caught another cab over to where the bike was parked and started pushing. I was dead certain that I would have a parking ticket, but I got lucky-- yay! The nice thing about the EX500 is that it's light. Pushing it nearly half a mile is still annoying as all fuck, but it's nothing like pushing a Goldwing or a Harley or a BMW.
At Ninth and Harrison I passed a mother and two children. "Look mommy! There's a lady with pink hair pushing a motorcycle." I guess today was my turn to be the local color.
Somewhere in the middle of this, it all went from highly annoying hilariously funny. It's really hard to stay grumpy when so many stupid things happen together.
I should have the car back Thursday. The bike is anyone's guess, since I told them they were only allowed to work on it at lowest priority, but I shouldn't be riding it anyway. And now I need to file two claims, one for damage to the bike, and one protesting the towing and ticket. Lucky me!
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