I joined a gang. A Vespa gang.
The other day I was reading some articles, and did you know that manmade climate change is destroying the planet?
What the heck?!
Alarmed, I decided to cut my personal carbon emissions not caused by my usual lunch of Taco Bell Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco Supreme, and bought a motor scooter. A Vespa, to be exact. The original Italian type you see in movie classics such as “Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn tooling around Rome having a merry romp.
I’m often mistaken for Mr. Peck on account of my chiseled jaw, thick hair, courtly manner and enviable manliness (in the non-toxic way). Also, I once killed a mockingbird (mostly unintentionally; long story short: His fault. He was mocking me).
Manliness led me to the next step in my scooter journey: I joined a Vespa gang.
The gang calls itself “Hecks Angels.” This is classic ironic understatement because trust me, they’re no angels.
In fact, the Hecks Angels live by the same rigorous rules as the legendary Hells Angels, but they’re even tougher:
1. Don’t use an apostrophe.
It’s “Hecks” Angels, not “Heck’s.” This is challenging for an English major like me who loses his mind over the increasingly common confusion of its and it’s. Forget about there, they’re and their. Don’t get me started on the chronically criminal misuse of “impact” as a verb.
2. You can never retire.
In Hells Angels it means like dancing with a bear — you quit when the bear decides or dismembers you. But I thought scootering was intended for retirement destinations like Sarasota. That is, before you upgrade to a golf cart for daily trips to Walgreens to torture the pharmacist.
3. You need permission to link to their website.
I also thought retirement meant pretending you don’t know what a website (or the internet or texting or Facebook or an iPhone or Instagram or TikTok) is so you can irritate and/or avoid family.
But our website, VespaRRRRiot.com, is the only way to learn about amazing rides when we get our motors runnin’ and head out on the highway lookin’ for adventure and whatever comes our way.
4. Don’t join another gang or club.
No worries here. Like Groucho Marx, I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. And I get a huge ego snack from refusing them.
5. Show up at all their meetings.
I didn’t know there would be meetings. I hate meetings. I do like to mansplain, talk over women, and take credit for others’ ideas by repeating them. But no PowerPoints!
6. You can only wear merch if you’re a member.
Who doesn’t love merch? With nothing better to do while Coviding, online shopping has been key to avoiding madness. Best of all, fellow members are jealous of my Hecks Angels Covid mask and lacy boxers that peek saucily above my leathers.
7. Respect your patches.
In reference to “The Treasure of Sierra Madre,” I once quipped to my gang members, “Patches? I don’t need no stinkin’ patches.” It went over poorly, so now I have to wear a member’s granddaughter’s Girl Scout patch she earned for knitting pink hats.
8. Don’t rat out fellow members.
A fellow Hecks Angels member once confided while hopped up on too many Starbucks tall skinny chai tea lattes that his uncle once knew someone who knew someone who was in Hells Angels and busted hippie heads at the infamous Rolling Stones Altamont concert. His secret is safe with me, so if you’re reading this, don’t tell anyone. I’ll get kicked out!
9. Expect to live on your bike.
My orthopedist suggests otherwise. He worries that the hard little Vespa seat might inflame my piriformis, which is a real pain in the tuchas.
10.Don’t ask how to join.
Few do. And since Hecks Angels can’t afford a lawyer, there are no membership stipulations that can withstand today’s potential discrimination claims. For example, we have no idea what to do with “pansexual.”
11.You can’t work for a prison.
Again, few Hecks Angels members do. And if your Shawshank Redemption escape fantasy is buzzing around tourist towns on a 50cc toy, ask your therapist if recidivism is right for you.
12.They ride in a particular order.
We all ride with pride, but the Vespa GTS SuperTech 300 HPE is the big dog with its unmatched power, torque, traction control and ABS. Beep beep? No — woof woof!
13.Never talk to the media.
If the reporter is a woke vegan Gen Z on an electric scooter, he, she or “they” probably will ask gotcha questions about how you’re still burning fossil fuel.
14.You can only ride on a Vespa.
Yes, to leftist Huffington Post, that sounds exclusionary and erasing of personal identity if you prefer Honda or other brands. #AllScootersMatter!
15.No women allowed.
Hells Angels has crunched the demographic data and concluded that only a select few women want to hug a disgusting ZZ Top-bearded man from behind. Few women want to join Hecks Angels either but just in case we’re looking for a few Audrey Hepburn types.
16.There’s a dress code.
Patagonia makes some nice fleece hiking gear that’s also perfect for scooting around Vermont for leaf-peeping and checking out the wonderful local microbreweries. Layering is recommended because it gets chilly at night, even in August.
17.Always ask for consent.
Hells Angels might need that rule because I suspect for some of them, #MeToo is an invitation to a threesome. Vespa guys are more enlightened but also shy.
18.You have to be voted in.
Hecks Angels uses the Electoral College model to make sure millions of elite coastal urban liberals don’t dictate over 25 real Americans from North Dakota.
19.No substance abuse allowed.
We all absolutely adore the amazing local microbrew IPAs wherever we ride. We also love a crisp Pilsner after long day. But as we say, “Two brewskis are enough, lads.”
20.The entire gang pulls over for police.
Roughly 80–100 percent of Vespa riders are white so we don’t worry so much.
In spite of all the rules, scooting is great fun.
And I want everyone to know — thanks for asking — the only reason I don’t ride a motorcycle, let alone a big fat Harley Hog, is that I can’t.
If that impacts my manly image, its ok — their are worse things in life.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.