During the past summer, I observed a phenomenon
in men from Haverhill, and it would make a great thesis for an anthropology study. The Latin term is Haverhillicus homocrisicum,
or a mid-life crisis- Haverhill style.
In other cultures men deal with ageing in
various ways. In some tribal cultures, for instance, a man at midlife might give away all his possessions in order to enhance
his prestige within the social group. In Europe and Latin America, a middle aged man- if he is prosperous- may acquire and
maintain a young, nubile girlfriend, whom he visits on rainy afternoons. Ancient Hindu scriptures describe the Vanaprasthaya,
or the forest dweller phase of life, in which a man renounces the world and turns inward for the approaching autumn and winter
of his life. In Haverhill, however, a man buys a motorcycle.
Behold Haverhillicus homocrisicum. He is
typically between 30 and 40 years old. His waistline is expanding. He finds himself huffing after climbing a flight of stairs,
but he tells himself he just needs to put some time in at the gym. In order to conceal his receding hairline, he shaves his
head, thinking that this seemingly clever ruse makes him look virile and cool- and hence more attractive to younger females.
To demonstrate his mastery over powerful machines, he alters the muffler of his motorcycle so that it makes an obscene amount
of noise. He drives up and down Haverhill"s semi- rural streets ruining the peace and quiet of others who- unlike himself,
like to enjoy their free time in peace and quiet. If asked, he will say he gets a sense of freedom from his bike. The only
problem is when his freedom means that a sleepy afternoon relaxing in your backyard is impossible because it sounds like living
at the edge of an airport with Boeing 747s taking off every three minutes.
Some will say that loud pipes are a necessary
safety measure- admittedly, a reasonable argument when one considers the astounding number of morons who insist on talking
on a cell phone while they drive cars. But a motorcycle is a discretionary vehicle for most people. Probably less than 1%
of motorcyclists depend on as primary transportation. If safety is a concern, a motorcyclist can use his car: nobody is forced
to ride a motorcycle.
Moreover, if we apply the safety argument,
what happens when I, who also have concerns about safety, remove the muffler from my truck so that others will be more aware
of me? Of course the police would ticket me- which is what they should do with motorcyclists who alter a stock muffler to
make it louder.
So Haverhillicus homocrisicum, give it up.
There's a whole new world out there: Spend quiet evenings reading a book. Attend ham and bean suppers at your local place
of worship. Take up vegetable gardening. Ageing happens. I wish you all safe but quiet journeys.