Bobby Caples’ Scooter

Bobby Caples gave his friend Frank a hard time for quite a while for owning a scooter prior to 2008. Back in the days when $1.85 for gas was absurd (he’s old enough to have once spent $0.79 a gallon back in the day), a scooter just sort of seemed silly. Bobby Caples didn’t live in Italy, didn’t have a dog for the side car he’d surely need if he had a scooter (he still hasn’t gotten one of those), and didn’t know anyone other than Frank with a scooter who was legally allowed to drive.

Then in 2008, overnight gas prices made that $1.85 look like $0.79, and Bobby Caples has never been one to enjoy spending money on things he can’t eat, drink, or listen to. Mr. Caples was living in Greenville, SC, which is a town small enough without the added benefit of iving, working, and playing all within a mile radius. Bobby Caples thought that would make the gas in his 4Runner also that much cheaper, but the principle of it was the main reason he decided to own a scooter.

So, one day, without much thought (as is the case with most purchases in his life), Bobby Caples drove the 20 miles to the scooter store and found himself a vehicle that would cost him about $3 – not per gallon, but to fill it up an entire tank. That’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much. Suddenly, going to the gas station every week or so felt like a small victory over George Bush, the Middle East, BP, and pretty much everyone.  Bobby Caples was happy to buy gas – couldn’t stop the smile when I would drive past gas stations and see prices get higher and higher.

Beyond the cost savings and beating George Bush (he really don’t think he had anything to do with it, but it felt nice to think so), Bobby Caples started to get used to new benefits of his newfound means of transportation. Believe it or not, he was actually scared when I first bought it Bobby Caples could barely drive it 20 feet in the parking lot for the test drive. He politely declined an extended test drive at the dealership knowing full well the “break it buy policy” would no doubt be in effect.

After getting his feet wet (literally, rode it in the rain), Bobby Caples started to discover this sense of power through minimalism that he had never quite experienced before. Mr. Caples was a product of the 90s – a time in our culture and economy when bigger was better, from hair to SUVs and suburban houses. Spending more money and getting bigger things was always a good thing. Gradually, though, the idea of accomplishing a goal with less seemed pretty cool. Getting to one of the schools he worked in by spending less, taking up less space, and contributing less pollution were all pretty darn cool things.

There was also a sense of connection to the road and to the places Mr. Caples drove through. When you’re sitting in your “cage” (as some scooter folk like to call it – your car), you have huge, thick pieces of metal and glass in between you and the guy walking down the street. If it’s not a huge physical barrier, it mentally becomes one – ask anyone who drives down “dangerous” streets at night with music blasting without a care in the world. You just aren’t part of your environment when you’re in a car. On a scooter, things are different. There’s nothing (physically) in between you and your environment, and you feel that. Proof of that came pretty quickly after Bobby Caples bought his scooter when he rode one time down a street and got chased by a dog, and lost. Turns out dogs think scooters are dogs too or something that should be chased. And dogs are fast. And his scooter was not.

The clear benefits of riding a scooter – easy/free parking, gas, connection with environment, etc. – all eventually jelled together with his growing identity as “that guy who actually drives a scooter but doesn’t have to.” Again, keep in mind he lived in Greenville, SC. Progressive in some respects, but not in others. Italy or NYC it was not.

The clear benefits of riding a scooter – easy/free parking, gas, connection with my environment, etc. – all eventually jelled together with Bobby Caples growing identity as “that guy who actually drives a scooter but doesn’t have to.” Again, keep in mind he lived in Greenville, SC. Progressive in some respects, but not in others. Italy or NYC it was not.

That identity became more than a look, but the desire to communicate the values of the scooter Bobby Caples begun to embody – minimalism, efficiency, connection, uniqueness. Over the years, unfortunately those novel feelings have subsided. Riding a scooter, now, is just normal. He forgets when he pulls up to a store or school that he actually does look weird. Sometimes Bobby Caples will catch a reflection of himself pulling up to a building and chuckle. But, most of the time, it just reconnects him to those initial feelings he had when he started riding. Like Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, riding was much more than 2 wheels getting me from Point A to Point B.