SUBURBAN MAN AND THE 1%
Melbourne March 2011
The driver hears the threat long before the infernal rumble takes ghastly form in his mirrors.
A biker is snaking his way through the cars at the traffic lights. The handlebars of his chopped Harley all but graze the paintwork of the cars as he glides to the front of the queue. Cars drifting to a stop pull up quickly, like they are all sharply inhaling to let him pass.
He stops, the bike straddling the pedestrian crossing.
Behind reflective sunglasses, the biker’s expression is impassive, but the mouth, amid a thick ginger beard, is set in an expression of grim belligerent assertiveness. He plants his heavy steel-capped boots on the road and crosses his thick tattooed arms across his chest. He is a massive, implacable force.
A man driving a vast GM Suburban is displeased at losing his pole position at the lights. He throws a poisonous glare at the biker’s back and starts lecturing his wife on the dangers of lane splitting. While everyone else is following the rules, the biker is making his own, doing what he likes.
It’s an opportunity to see the beast up close, like viewing lions at a safari park. He’s dressed in familiar biker garb – faded grimy jeans, a plaid shirt and a leather vest.
There’s no club insignia on the vest, no rocker on the back explaining which “gang” he is from. That’s how it is now – if you ride in your club “colours” you’re going to be stopped by cops every five minutes. A day on the bike with a patch on your back becomes a procession of questions, warrant checks and defect notices. So mostly the patch is reserved for massed club runs, quick escapes to the country, or days when you feel defiant enough to take it all on.
But even without the patch, there’s no mistaking what he represents – this is the bikie menace. This is the 1% of bikers that no-one else will claim. He lives beyond the pale.
They’re the brutish barbarians with vulgar chunky gold rings like knuckle dusters; the hungry-eyed satyrs who could strip a woman’s virtue with just a lascivious leer. They’re the vicious cruel thugs who would leave a good man broken and bleeding in the gutter for defending her honour.
Suburban man know this from shows he watched on pay-TV.. Amid the peace and tranquillity of a Sunday morning, the bogeyman still lives. He’s blown in from the wastelands of their worst nightmares.
Suburban Man edges his car forward till the bumper is almost touching the back wheel of the Harley. He’s letting his wife know he won’t be intimidated. She wants none of this.
The biker is now aware of the vast chrome grille looming over him. He’s used to this and the belligerent attitude of people to him.
His reputation sparks fear and loathing and he enjoys that. It reminds him that the world is divided into Us and Them. The hatred validates his choice to become an outlaw. It makes him seem real, much more than a grown man playing dress-ups. There’s no justice; there’s just us. And this is our sign – the patch.
He can easily picture what they’re thinking – he’s en route to a drug deal, to bash a rival, or to partake in some sadistic orgy. He believes he’s above the law, free to do whatever he pleases, and that’s why they hate him. Well, the feeling’s mutual.
The biker suddenly throws his Harley into gear and, after a cursory check for oncoming traffic, he breaks the red light. But rather than just blast through the intersection, he drops his hip and takes the machine sideways onto the pedestrian cross-walk. It’s the same cheap, irritating manoeuvre that cyclists use every day; but if you pull it on a Harley, it looks infinitely more heinous.
As the back wheel smokes and fishtails, the biker looks at Suburban Man from over his shoulder. C’mon, no-one will know and no-one will be hurt – even if the cop’s station is just 50 metres away. Just make a decision.
Then the rider snaps the back wheel under him and opens the throttle. As he guns the bike up the hill, there’s a great thunderous roar that echoes off the walls of the concrete canyon.
You can read the disgust on the face of Suburban Man. This is a clear statement, a hideous wet fart in his face: Part of you wants to be me. You would run me off into those parked cars, if you could But you can’t because, in your heart, you are a sheep.
For all his badness, there are moments when the biker feels free, or what he believes it to be. And freedom, even to be bad, is a rare thing indeed.