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In 1976, the year America celebrated it’s Bicentennial, the rock band Kiss released their album (and 8-track tape) “Destroyer.” Wedged between the screeching guitar riffs and snarling vocals, their biggest hit to date quietly sat. “Beth,” which reached #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, became the band’s first of two top 10 singles. Ironically, it was originally released as the B-side to one of my favorite Kiss songs, “Detroit Rock City.”
The song, which is a love ballad, begins with the drummer, Peter Criss singing, “Beth I hear you calling, but i cant come home right now...me and the boys are playing and we just can’t find the sound.”
Why do I tell you all this? What does this have to do with KNOWvember? Enter Beth, who rolls up on a motorcycle. Only I don’t hear her calling because it’s an electric motorcycle and like the brand’s name, it makes zero noise.
Question #1: Do people often freak out because they can’t hear you coming? I felt like I wasted a valuable question because already assumed the answer. “All the time. But I’m pretty aggressive with the horn.” I knew that because that’s what you have to do in the city. It doesn’t matter what you drive, you have to always be ready to honk in San Francisco, where Beth has lived for over 40 years.
It was cold on the corner down the street from where my wife grew up. That’s typical of the neighborhood, as well as San Francisco itself. This is where Mark Twain famously said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” Beth wasn’t bundled up so much, but she didn’t want to stick around for my weird social experiment. But she obliged me for two more questions.
Question #2 What got you to this particular electric motorcycle? “I always had a scooter so when I saw this bike I knew I had to have it.” And I could understand why. The Zero-s is a beautifully sculpted piece of machinery. “It’s what street riding is meant to be,” boast the website. “It’s pure stealth.” But here’s the thing, while I didn’t hear Beth pull up...all eyes were on her bike. So I’m not so sure stealth is the right description.
Beth told me, “I want to help the environment, but really I just hate traffic.” It was the latter which led her to abandoned her car nearly 20 years ago. She’s all about “splitting lanes.” For those who don’t know or don’t have this law in their state, it’s legal in California to drive between the lanes of traffic. “It’s dangerous, but it shaves off a heck of a lot of time in your commute.”
It’s not your typical motorcycle. But then again, Beth was not your typical “biker chick” either. Bright, clear blue eyes that popped against her pure white hair. And a smile that was equally as bright as it was white. From her small frame came a powerful voice that made up for both her and the machine which I learned from the site, “strips away the noise, fumes, and vibration.” The wind began to pick up and both our noises were already going from pink to red.
Question #3 Where would you take this if you could go anywhere? “I hate the highway. I’m 63, and I can’t go the distance anymore. Anyway, have a Happy Thanksgiving and good luck with your experiment.” I suspect she could have gone the distance with this interview. But it was cold, and the night before Thanksgiving. The line in the supermarket was 20 people deep.
Beth is my 27th person I have intentionally met this month. While most of these meetings have been long, wonderful conversations, they don’t always have to be. Not every person you meet will be a surprise hit, like “Beth” was for Kiss. But each one has the potential to make someone’s day. As cold as it was outside, Beth warmed my heart and got me thinking maybe I’m not to old to ride a motorcycle. My wife, mom, and kids might have a different opinion however.