Do you remember your first time?
I will never forget the first time I rode on a Vespa. Clearly, it wasn’t mine, but I had movie plans with friends and my ride said, “I’ll pick you up. On my Vespa.”
I let those words sink in for more than a moment, sitting in my air-conditioned room I had to myself in a sprawling, musician-ridden house in Allston. Not only was my home filled with music, it was also the habitat of a cat and several squirrels that somehow managed to make their way into the rafters and would wake me, scrabbling and scratching, most mornings before the birds started their perky alarms.
“Well, that nice skirt is out,” I thought, and selected a pair of cutoff shorts and sneakers, not entirely sure what one should wear while Vespa-riding across Boston. Debating whether or not the ride was really about to be a good idea, I walked downstairs and out onto my porch, sprawling on the front steps in the hot summer sunshine to smoke a cigarette and debate my situation.
I was terrified.
Vespas were decidedly cool. I was decidedly not cool. I could fall off and die. I didn’t want to fall off and die, nor did I want to make a move to do so anytime in the near future. But I also thought, “the hell with it,” and wiped my slightly sweaty palms on my shorts, picked up my purse and faced the street, expectantly.
My friend pulled up on the Vespa and pulled another helmet out of the seat compartment, replacing it with my purse. I marveled at the room in what seemed to be a tiny space, and then at what I was supposed to hold onto. My choices were a bar behind me or my friend. Adopting and supremely awkward combination of both and wearing a supremely embarrassing helmet, we set off. My heart was beating so fast it was almost hard to breathe, a sensation amplified by the speed at which the ground seemed to be moving below me. I didn’t want to cut off circulation to my friend and subsequently drive off the road, so I grabbed hold of the weird bar behind me and imagined I still looked somewhat cool.
I was right. This was terrifying.
The Vespa wobbled. The cars were so close and huge and Boston driver-y which is, actually, terrible. The wind was fast. The ground was running by quicker than any treadmill. I forgot how to exhale and was convinced that I was going to come flying off the bike at any second.
It was also one of the neatest things I had done at that point. And I’d done some pretty cool things: going up to the cockpit of a 747 in the middle of the night because my brother would not settle and the flight attendants decided to bribe him with a trip being one such “pretty cool” encounter. You won’t imagine the sheer amount of stars that can be seen at night, in the sky. Riding a Vespa was kind of like that, at least in my opinion It was weird. It was different. It changed my worldview just a little.
Needless to say, I wanted to do it again. I still haven’t done it again. However, my tenure in New York thus far has given me serious Vespa envy. They are everywhere: in pairs, between cars, quietly under a cover. They’re bright pink, red, blue, black, purple and green. They’re more than one color, young and shiny, old and ill-used. There’s even a Vespa store in Astoria and it’s been rumored – or someone was just messing with me – that they are opening a bar in there.
A Vespa is a neat, foreign-yet-familiar item that I like to seek out and snap around the city. Why? I don’t know. It’s like a treasure hunt. I spot something most people would not notice and stick it on the old Instagram with #vespasofnewyork as the tag. I know this is pointless and more than a little bit silly. But it’s sure better than Instagramming my food instead of eating it, and far less narcissistic than pictures of myself, in artfully arranged poses.
And you never know. One day, just one day, I might end up with a Vespa of my very own.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”