Communication through a love of combustion
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.