Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tiny's Uniform

With a name as silly as the "Peppermint Squad" it goes without saying that the elected leader should be an oversized man named Tiny. This is the case.

Tiny Phillips is six feet four inches tall, weighing in at 315 pounds. He rides a Honda Metropolitan. This scooter's owner's manual states that the maximum weight the suspension can support is 250 pounds. Tiny rides with impunity in defiance of the manufacturer's specifications and he has ridden this little Metro for three years requiring no more maintanence than an annual oil change. The brakes have been tightened but that is routine for the cables on this trusty machine and have nothing to do with the heft of the primary driver. The tires have been checked and psi added, but again, this is nothing an elfin scooterist wouldn't have to do. Tiny's Metro jumps at green lights like a thoroughbred, going from 0-15mph in 4.3 seconds. He has escaped many a startling scrape because of trustworthy, Japanese engineering.

As leader of the Peppermint Squad, Tiny wears his badge of office proudly. Massachusetts has a helmet law so everyone, motorized or not, on two wheels is required to wear a helmet to protect thier cranium from miscalculated turns and short stops. Everyone in the Peppermint Squad wears a helmet even when they cross into Rhode Island, Connecticut, or New Hampshire where the headgear isn't required. They are citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, after all, and they put personal safety before personal independence. Thier helmets are a mark of state pride.

The Peppermint Squad's leader, as specified in the club's constitution, is required to obey all of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' civil statutes regarding required safety equipment. Head protection and eye protection are de riguer for all members of the squad when they are on patrol. The leader wears something else that sets him off from the rest of his pack. He doesn't always ride in the lead but he sports a badge of authority that separates the head from the body.

Before embarking on a group ride, as required by institutional bylaws, the elected leader of the Peppermint Squad dons a red bandanna around his neck, knotted in the back and with the edge of the long crease perched on the tip of his nose. The club's founders felt this gave the leader a vigilante look that was true their original intentions and lent an air of lawlessness and rebellion. The leader may look like a bandit but he is one of the good guys.

The Peppermint Squad isn't lawless. They employ hand signals when turning and they are the least troublesome of Boston's two-wheeled gangs, but they don't always obey the letter of traffic regulations. They enjoy lane splitting and running late night red lights that are red for no apparent reason besides an automatic timer. They zip through traffic like a warm blade through cottage cheese. Their engines run hot but their tempers are even.

Tiny Phillips, current leader of the Peppermint Squad embodies all the clubs traditions and intentions when he straddles the frame of his Honda Metropolitan and calls a fresh ride to order. His big butt on the seat of his little steed marks him in the pack as much as his badge of office. He has been leader of the Peppermint Squad for two years. He is a natural politician who rose quickly through the ranks. He doesn't wear a bandanna over his face to disguise himself. He stands out in traffic enough. He wears it to distinguish himself. The other members of the Peppermint Squad recognize he has earned the right to cover his features and they rally around him.

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