“My mistake – I’m Sorry,” I shouted into the cellphone, which was precariously wedged between my ear and the helmet.
“You should be,” came the unsympathetic response from my colleague in the UNITED headquarters.
“We nearly had the Blues on your tail,” he added for good measure.
“I apologize – it won’t happen again,” I replied, this time less meek, more ‘gimme a break’.
“And next time answer your radios or phones.”
“Is there anything else darlin’?”
“No, that’s all – drive safe.”
“Thank you, have a pleasant shift.”
So let’s start with why my phone was wedged into my helmet:
Question: “Don’t you cowboys have Bluetooth helmets?”
Answer: Yes, the new guys do, but I’m still trying to stick to old school traditions. Nowadays, the helmets are high tech and come ready fitted with earpieces that connect, through Bluetooth, with our communication devices. There is a small button on the handlebar, next to your thumb, that you press to talk, and you get to hear the response directly into your brain.
Yeah, whatever. I prefer the old way. I like it better when the uncomfortably warm, radiation emitting, speakerphone crackling, “can you hear me now” producing, oops slipping cellphone is jammed uncomfortably close to my skull. But the organization won’t tolerate it much longer. Unsafe they say.
Question: What was that guy screaming at you about?
Answer: I forgot to tell Control I was out driving after 23:00. I’ll explain.
Advances in technology, coupled with snoopy control guys, have enabled ‘big brother’ to spy on the Ambucycles 24/7. My bike went through a serious nail-biting three hour surgery, in the course of which it was implanted with a GPS tracking device. But this ain’t your regular GPS gizmo. No, no, the tech guys went all out with this one. Control gets fed masses of information onto their huge screens. Data such as, my location, my speed, my favorite color, and what I ate for breakfast get relayed to the powers that be. Furthermore, every time I switch on my lights and sirens, the bosses are informed.
No more zipping to buy Pizza with sirens blazing.
Not that I ever did that. Ahem.
The positive repercussion of all this though, is that the bikes are harder, if not impossible, to steal. If some unlucky thief does somehow manage to nick a bike, he’ll have the long arm of the law knocking on his door within the hour. And they won’t be delivering pizza.
Bottom Line: Don’t steal my bike!
Question: Why was I apologizing to control?
Answer: Every ignition between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00 needs to be reported. The thinking behind this is that most robberies happen at night; so if the volunteer needs to go somewhere on the bike during the aforementioned hours, his duty is to call, identify himself, and inform control of his approximate flight plan & how long he’ll be out for.
Simple enough, but I always forget. And when you forget, they try to get hold of you on your cell or radio. If something’s not right, they call the police, triangulate and relay the bike’s location. Then it’s only a matter of minutes…
Question: Is there anything else you can do to ensure your bike isn’t stolen?
“You’re not a thief, are you; trying to get the inside scoop?’
“No, I’m just an innocent curious civilian reading your blog!”
Answer = There are several;
- Lock your bike to an immovable object.
According to the strict letter of the law (United regulations), you need to lock your bike every time you park. Sounds great on paper, but is imminently impractical.
“Why aren’t you running to save the trapped and injured passengers of the overturned vehicle?”
“I’m just scanning the highway for an immovable object…”
“Help! My Baby’s choking!”
“Is there a telephone pole in the vicinity of your house, Ma’am?”
You get the picture.
- Don’t tell anyone, but there is a secret kill-switch under my seat. Whenever the bike is parked, we are supposed to turn the switch to the OFF position. This somehow cuts power internally to the engine, so that it can’t be switched on or even hotwired.
This is a great mechanism and I use it all the time. It’s simple to do and very effective. Problem is I sometimes run to save a life, only to find that the bike doesn’t start. It normally takes about 5 seconds of head scratching for me to remember that the switch needs to be moved to ON.
“I’m forgetful – so what!?”
- We are instructed to move the “Lights and Sirens” to the ON position. This is so that if somebody does succeed in breaking the lock (rare) and defeats the kill switch (implausible), once he starts the engine he, and the people within earshot, are in for a pleasant surprise. The hope is that he gets the shock of his life and runs (not rides) away.
And for the avoidance of doubt – Yes, I constantly and consistently forget to return the Sirens to OFF, and get the shock of my life at ignition. I have however learned NOT to run away, so all is not lost.
Thieves everywhere beware – we know where you live!
And even if we don’t, you’re sure to lead us there, should you make the injudicious mistake of stealing an Ambucycle.
(Just a quick apology to my neighbors for the chaotic noises when I start my bike – It’s a minor technical fault. It’ll be fixed just as soon as I get a Bluetooth helmet.)