Cathy Hamilton: Born to be wild

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Editor's note: Cathy Hamilton was on vacation this week and a new column was not available. The piece below was originally published Oct. 22, 2006

I am standing in the middle of a scooter store, staring at the back of a sexy little motorized bike called the Piaggio. I recently experienced a minor financial windfall, and I've decided to buy a scooter.

My youngest sister, who is 37, thinks this is out-loud laughable, no doubt referring to the visual of me scooting through the streets of town, my white hair flying in the wind.

But, I am not alone.

Vespa, makers of the most popular Italian scooters on the market, say boomers are their best customers.

So there.

The salesman starts in with his pitch, and I stop him short.

I know it gets 90 miles to the gallon.

I know about the two-stroke engine that injects the oil into the gas so you don't have to mix it yourself.

I'm hip to the one-year limited warranty and the suggested retail price.

C'mon. I'm a woman with a laptop. I live for consumer research.

What I want to know, and why I'm scrutinizing the rear of the bike instead of the headlights or the storage capacity or those handy under-the-dash hooks for your plastic grocery bags, is one thing:

Will this scooter make my butt look big?

Will motorists following three car-lengths behind me be so distracted by the size of my rear end they'll swerve into my lane, over-correct and smash into a tree? This isn't vanity; it's a public safety concern.

Get over yourself, says the little voice in my head. You want to buy this scooter. Do your bit for global warming.

Oh yeah? I answer back. Then why don't I just buy a bicycle and put my money where my mouth is?

The voice responds: Have you ever seen that 50-year-old bottom hanging over a bicycle seat? I don't THINK so.

I decide not to pose the burning question to the scooter salesman, who now seems intent on showing me his 10-inch alloy wheels.

Instead, I grab a helmet and take a test drive.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to check out one's rear end while driving a scooter.

I try adjusting the handlebar mirrors, but the angle is wrong.

I try riding past large plate-glass windows, but the side view isn't conclusive, and besides, it's not smart to take your eyes off the road on your maiden scooter voyage. Finally, I pull into a parking lot, back the bike up to a large store window and take out my compact for a reverse-angle look-see.

What is this, one of those freaky fun house mirrors?

My behind looks huge!

Maybe there really is a flaw in the plate glass. The same phenomenon that causes skinny and fat mirrors in dressing rooms. It's possible.

So I turn the bike around and face the glass head on to get the oncoming traffic's perspective. I look good. Like a woman born to be wild.

I am going to buy this scooter.

I smile for the glass and give myself a "here's looking at you, kid" wink and a big thumbs up.

Suddenly, I see past my reflection in the window and into the store, where a group of auto parts shoppers have gathered to gape slack-jawed at the crazy, white-haired woman posing on a scooter in the parking lot with no camera in sight.

I raise my right hand high in the air, give them a backwards wave and slap my behind for effect, saying to no one in particular:

Don't like my scoot? Kiss my patoot!

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