Train Wreck – Chapter One

A Story – By Cassidy

The choices we make and the chances we take.

It had been a long, tiring day. I worked at a local high-end car dealership, delivering serviced customer cars and dealer trades, as well as driving the parts van. It was brainless work, but rewarding nonetheless. At least to me.

After trudging up the four flights to my apartment, I washed off the day’s grime and checked my e-mail. I lived alone by choice. Most women or men wouldn’t want to live in a cold flat, heated by a kerosene stove — especially with a devout cross-dresser.

After I’d made the choice to live as a reverse George Sand, dating had all but evaporated. Many women found it difficult to date a man who out-dressed them and men couldn’t bring themselves to drink or play cards with a man in a skirt.

Support groups had gone lacking as I tired of the incessant chatter about make-up and coming out angst. My thoughts had always been, “Make a decision and then live with the consequences.” I’d made my choice some twenty-five years earlier and the results had been a life alone and fringe job employment. Living alone had its plusses, but at times I missed the softness of a real woman and the backslapping friendship of men.

The delete button got a workout as the endless stream of spam found its way to the trash bin. One particular e-mail caught my eye, as the state motorcycle training coordinator had sent it.

Dan,

I need you to teach a course this Sunday. Are you available? I’ll cover the transportation and lodging, as it will be quite a trip for you. It’s at the State Capital riding range in parking lot “B.” If you respond in the affirmative, I’ll reserve a room in your name at the Motel 6 on Center Drive Your key will work in the pad-locks and the combination to the center lock is the local area code.

Please respond by noon tomorrow.

Timothy T. Belmont, IV.

Chief Trainer and Regional Site Coordinator

He must have been desperate to e-mail me to teach a motorcycle training course — desperate enough to reimburse travel and accommodation expense; something that hadn’t ever been done before. If I agreed, my trip would be in excess of 350 miles – round trip. He ran the state’s southwestern region and scheduled the trainers. My name hovered below the bottom of the active trainers because in part of our common hatred of each other. We had different approaches to training students to ride motorcycles. He lived by the curriculum, while I thought of the curriculum as a guide.

I clicked on Reply:

I’m in.

Dan.

The day before the training day, I packed my training materials, riding gear, and an overnight bag, and then headed down to my car. I decided to drive versus ride due in part to the excessive amount of gear that I’d have to carry. Sport bikes weren’t all that touring friendly.

As I made my way down the steps to the car, my twenty-something graduate school neighbor Annie popped her head out of her apartment door.

“Motorcycle trip, Dan?” she asked. Her elfin body contrasted with her booming man-like voice.

“No,” I replied. “I’m off to teach a course and it’s on the other end of the state so it will be an overnight trip. I guess the state coordinator guy got desperate – he’s picking up the tab for the room and paying mileage.

“I thought you’ve given up teaching people to ride after that tirade you delivered when you returned last time.”

“Like I said – they must be desperate.”

“Well, have a good time and try to stay out of trouble.”

“It won’t be easy, but I’ll try.”

I tossed my gear into the trunk of the car and then began the over three-hour trip to the motel.

I dined on a packaged meal purchased at a local convenience store, watched an in-room movie, and then changed into my black satin waltz-length night-gown and called it a day.

***

I arrived at the training site one hour before the course start time of eight o’clock ready for the day’s events.

As I set up the first exercise, a truck pulled in. It turned out to be Tim. “Damn,” I muttered under my breath. I’d be spending the day with the anal retentive one. It would be a long by-the-book day.

“Hello, Tim,” I said extending a hand and trying to be cordial. “This is a surprise, teaching with you.”

“Dan, it’s good to see you again. I see that you have the range set up.” He offered a convenience store twelve-ounce cup of coffee.

“Do we have a full course?” I asked accepting his gesture of friendship and wondering why he appeared to be even more regimented than his normal self.

“It’s a full registration; and it’ll be a double-course day.”

A double-course day; twelve students in the morning from eight to one and another twelve students in the afternoon from half past one until half past six. That much time on my feet with him sticking his nose in would be painful.

“Tim, do you have the morning roster? I’d like to take a look at it.”

He’d been military – a marine and a child of the ’80’s. He reeked of it. I hadn’t held it against him, but, for me, it was something without reference. Most of my time during the ‘60’s had been dedicated to staying out of the draft. He marched while I shuffled along. His manner of speech and physical movements were compact as opposed to mine, which were random and lackadaisical. He wore the state’s oxford cloth uniform shirt and multi-pocketed police styled slacks while I wore whatever male clothes happened to be clean. The few times that we had worked together our presentation rivaled that of Punch and Judy without the hitting.

He reached into his bag, removed the list of students, and then handed it to me. As much as I hated profiling, I profiled. Over the years the use of age, sex, physical movements, and command of one’s body determined how I structured the approach to the day. Their profile directly translated to the way a student operated the motorcycle. In most cases students who didn’t have control of their bodies had difficulty.

“Dan,” Tim said carefully as if he’d rehearsed it. “While we train these riders I’ll be assessing your performance. We’ve received a number of complaints from some trainers you’ve worked with accusing you of changing the curriculum. The assessment will be in accordance with the Code of Conduct and you’ll receive a copy of my report once it’s finalized.”

“I don’t change the curriculum,” I said in defense. “My delivery might be different than what’s outlined, but I don’t change anything. I know the rules.”

“My hands are tied.”

“What happens if you write a negative report?

“You’ll be suspended.”

“Well thank you, Tim. I need that hanging over my head today.”

In my own strange way, I’d gotten off on watching students who had never ridden before slowly acquire riding skills and watching the pre-course nervousness gradually convert to eager smiles. It all had become harder for me when the state took over the training from the independent schools. Government employee mentality made it nearly impossible to meet the needs of the students.

I’d also begun to fear for their lives. The new curriculum no longer included maneuvers that I deemed necessary to the skillful operation of a motorcycle. It de-emphasized step-by-step skills training and replaced it with whole skill training. The new buzzword was “they’ll get the bits on their own.” The students who finished the government’s course willingly judged themselves “riders” due in part to not having crashed on the training range.

A review of the registrants revealed one woman in the morning class, Margaret Collins, forty-four. Two other students bore the surname Collins, Sean and Jason, eighteen and seventeen. ~Probably a mother and her two sons,~ I thought. ~What would possess a parent to join their kids in something like this? ~ If the opportunity presented itself I’d ask her.

The Collins arrived together. Sean, the older of the two sons, appeared distant and not sociable.

“I’m only here because my mother won’t let me ride my bike unless I take this course.”

Choosing to ignore his comment I extended a hand and a nametag. “I’m Dan and I’ll be one of your trainers – enjoy your day.” He ignored me and moved to one side with a scowl on his face.

Jason’s handshake, though firm, hadn’t yet become forceful. He also dipped his eyes when speaking. “Could you show me how to corner with my knee touching the ground?”

“I can’t. It’s not part of the course, and ‘Big Tim’ over there would stroke out if I did. Tell you what, though.. When we practice cornering, I’ll explain it.” I spoke with what I hoped were bright eyes and a toothy smile. Someone was actually showing up to learn something. “I’m Dan, by the way.”

The two boys reeked of prep school — budding young All-American boys, squeaky clean and despite Sean’s sulking, they were generally polite.

“Hi, I’m Margaret Collins.” A diminutive well-dressed and well-preserved woman, she greeted me with a soft grip that spoke of openness. “I see that you’ve met my sons. Sean can be a bit of a challenge at times, but Jason is very much reserved. My ex-husband bought his sons motorcycles and they want to ride them, but I won’t allow it until they are fully qualified.”

As I shook her hand thoughts of the Lennon-McCartney lyrics buzzed behind my eyes. “…I’ve just seen a face I can’t forget the time or place where we just met….” It had been another day and I would look the other way as dating students was not in my nature, but I would “…dream of her tonight….” A former trainer acquaintance of mine had dated a female student who turned out to be married. It got ugly when her husband found out about it and sued the state. My acquaintance, damned fool that he’d been, got dismissed. He hadn’t been included in the state’s defense and ended up paying a six-figure legal bill.

“Are you learning to ride so you can go along with them?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I’m worried about them and concerned about the type of training that they’ll receive. I want to take the course so I can remind them about being safe each time they ride.”

Her voice, although melodic, had the sound of deep concern for her boys.

I handed her a nametag and said, “How thoughtful” before moving on to the remaining students.

The remainder of the twelve ranged in age from the mid twenties to late forties and displayed a degree of grace in their movement. I addressed them with Tim by my side.

“Welcome to the program,” I said. “Tim and I will be your trainers and we hope your experience will be enjoyable and memorable. As a way to get to know you all a bit better we ask you to wear nametags so that we won’t have to refer to you as ‘Hey dude’ or ‘Yo — you with the red helmet’ or ‘You with the fringed jacket.’ ”

All of the students except Margaret uttered laughter from their stomachs and chests. Hers was a polite conversational laugh.

“What’s your name?” I asked of a student dressed as if he stepped out of a Harley-Davidson Motor Clothes catalog.

“Hey Dude,” he chuckled.

Everyone laughed again, and the banter seemed to be relaxing the group.

“Okay,” I said, as I handed him a nametag with “Dude” printed on it. “We’ll get your real name when we collect the permits before the skill test next week.”

“Gather around again,” I said calling to everyone to get their attention. “Those of you who have been riding around a bit think of today as an alternative to what you’ve already been doing. Somewhere between what you know and what you learn today will be your riding style, so let’s all keep an open mind and have some fun.”

Tim stood by with a stone face and greeted each student with a handshake and a forced smile. I wondered if his assessment of me had begun.

“It’s not necessary that you befriend each student,” Tim said, as we walked slightly ahead of the students toward the training bikes.

Obviously my “test” had started.

“They’re more than asses in the seats and numbers on an annual report,” I said in disgust. “They’re people and we should respect them by at least attempting to learn their names. Didn’t you notice that they relaxed a bit when I got them laughing?”

“We’re trainers, not entertainers,” he said as his rigid gait gained a stride on me.

Setting aside our differences for the sake of our duty, we assigned the students motorcycles. I took particular care to give Margaret one of the more rider-friendly bikes in the fleet — fearing her “petite-ness” would hinder her operation of anything too large. She’d also be disadvantaged because she was the only participant who hadn’t ridden prior to taking the course.

Tim took it upon himself to be the lead trainer, and then guided the students through the first exercise with military efficiency by barking out instructions. Margaret struggled with the location and operation of the motorcycle’s controls. Unable to just stand by and watch her confusion, I moved to assist her.

To be continued…….

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