Thursday, July 07, 2016

No deal with the devil

A guy who used to ride mountain bikes with us in the 1990s, before the needs of family life took him off the trails, wandered back into the shop a few weeks ago with a neighbor's garden cart wheel in need of a tire. While he was there, he spotted the fat bikes and was intrigued enough to test out a couple.

He decided he really liked the Fuji Wendigo. He was going to go home and lobby for it. Meanwhile, because he had mentioned serious neck issues, we put together the parts we would need to raise the handlebars to accommodate his fused vertebrae.

He'd been a ghost for years, so we did not fret when he submerged again for a week or so. Then, suddenly, he popped back in today to say he couldn't buy the bike.

I expected it would be the usual spousal veto. This frequently hinges on the release of funds from a family budget that may be strained by all the boring bullshit of real life. But no. He's come up with an angle we had truly never heard before.

"Do you know what a Wendigo is?" he asked. Steve said he did. He'd looked it up on line when we got the bikes. It's some freaky demon of ancient North American legend: Exactly the sort of thing a bike industry enthralled with their badass image would name a bike model. Think of the Surly Krampus. At least the Krampus is only a seasonal demon.

"I can't buy this bike," said our customer. "If I believe in God and good and stuff, then I have to believe in evil and Satan and all that. The Wendigo is a horrible creature. I can't support that."

When the discussion moves from componentry to theology, the ramifications of the sale become cosmic. It's all fun and games until you believe you are actually living on a planet with supernatural monsters that eat people's flesh. Our buddy Bob's observation shoves religious faith smack into the middle of modern consumerism in the age of science. I have to refuse to believe in such monsters, because I ride a lonely commute entirely in the dark, once autumn arrives. What am I going to do, load up on silver weapons and crucifixes? That shit weighs a ton. But I'm not going to mess with Bob's concept of his immortal soul just to cleave him away from some coin and move a bike off the sales floor.

This is hardly an issue to trouble the bean counters of the bike industry. Guys like Bob are scarce enough to ignore. On the other hand, some marketing idiot's choice of a badass name for a bike model will likely cost us a sale. Bob may be rare, but I doubt if he is unique. How many other potential customers turn away, perhaps without saying anything to anyone, because they're turned off by the juvenile embrace of an evil image?

Krampus at least rides shotgun with a saint.

The badass crowd will say if you can't stand the names, don't buy the bikes. "If you don't like what we're sayin', we ain't talkin' to you!" It's fun to have your group identity and sense of pride. If you're okay with who you offend and why, keep it up. It's a free country. It's silly and pointless, but so much of life can be described that way that it doesn't really matter. I was just fascinated by the intersection of supernatural belief, marketing bullshit, and inanimate machinery.

Bob went home to contemplate his options, because he really likes the bike. Only after he had left did I think that he might justify the purchase by being the man of God who tames the demon, and bends it to the will of good. But that might be considered prideful, and then he'd be in worse trouble.

I am not mocking his beliefs. I don't share his beliefs, but the issues are his own to sort out. If he is concerned enough to tell us all this, we're not going to brush it off. People can be very serious about the care of their souls.

2 comments:

Justine Valinotti said...

Voodoo made some nice bikes. (I know. I had one.) But some people wouldn't buy them because of their name.

cafiend said...

The 1990s launched the whole badass image thing. Some of the product names were trying so hard to be edgy, they were strained and pathetic.