Com­mu­ni­ca­tion through a love of com­bus­tion

Motorcyclist - - Contents - BY AARON RICHARD­SON

i was fo­cused on en­tropy. On the spasm of the uni­verse that caused the volt­age reg­u­la­tor in my ’86 Yamaha Ra­dian to re­tire from the per­fectly timed sym­phony be­tween my shins. I was try­ing not to think about how far I was from civ­i­liza­tion. Or how ten­u­ous my ac­cess to a tow truck was. Or the 480th straight hour of pour­ing rain.

Geert, a hir­sute Dutch­man I’d met at a hos­tel, was fo­cused on the prob­lem too, but his in­ter­pre­ta­tion had to be thought through in his na­tive tongue, trans­lated, and re­peated to me in his not-quite-there-yet English.

“It is maybe the bougie. The, ahh…” He stuck out one in­dex fin­ger and tapped with the other. “Spark plug?” “Yes! This is how it is called.” We were wrong in our as­sump­tions but used the same back-and-forth to get to the root of the mat­ter. The sta­tor, never one to leave a buddy be­hind, had fol­lowed the volt­age reg­u­la­tor to its death.

The uni­ver­sal truth that fuel, air, and spark make a bang dis­solved the lin­guis­tic bound­aries be­tween two men on a wet road in the mid­dle of nowhere, Nova Sco­tia, be­cause the lessons of in­ter­nal com­bus­tion are our com­mon tongue. Any­one who rides, who has stared at a life­less ma­chine, who has cursed and failed their way back to idle, has been taught by the same stern teacher.

The tricks re­quired to coax a stub­born bolt from its bore or sweeten an air-fuel ra­tio to a proper burn are the same in In­di­ana as they are in Ti­bet. The recipe for the com­bus­tion that pushes us along the tree-lined roads of our lives is a road map for com­mu­ni­ca­tion—as uni­ver­sal as medicine, dance, sex, or cal­cu­lus. So long as two peo­ple know the ba­sic steps, they needn’t share a sin­gle syl­la­ble.

Even when the bougie won’t boo­gie.

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