Used Motorcycle For Sale:
The Story of an Old Man’s Contagious Zest for Life
by Dr. John W. Luton
Elizabeth City State University
The big, bold-faced letters in the classified ad
immediately caught my eye:
Used Motorcycle For Sale. Will let go cheap to a good owner.
“Bet there’s a story behind that one,” I said to myself as I gave the page a flip and searched impatiently for the crossword puzzle. Not finding it in its usual place, I folded the paper and plopped it down on top of the kitchen counter.
“Used motorcycle for sale, indeed,” I muttered as I walked toward my easy chair in the living room. I rubbed my eyes and felt my weight drop into the chair. With a muffled, metallic clunk the chair slid forward into the rest position. A yawn pulled my lips too tightly across my teeth. I needed a nap.
But instead of dozing off, my thoughts soon returned to the used motorcycle. “For sale” – printed in letters twice the size of the rest of the headline – gave the ad an almost eerie appearance when compared to the others. In spite of my irritation, I admired the advertising scheme that had hooked me.
“Yeah,” I said to myself. “It seems somebody knows a little something about sales! I wonder who’s selling it.”
I couldn’t believe I was still thinking about some stupid used motorcycle for sale in the classifieds. I knew advertising and this deal was small potatoes. Hadn’t I been working for a major Baltimore agency for a decade? Hadn’t I brought in some of the largest accounts in my unit? I was one of the best. I had so much work that I couldn’t even take a day off. I was a professional and I had the earning to prove it.
“What was that line about being willing to let the bike go cheap to a good home?”
I pushed the footrest back into the chair, jumped up to my feet and walked back into the kitchen. “What am I doing?” I reached for the paper and opened it quickly to the ad.
“What’s this guy talkin’ about anyway– a good home? It sounds like he’s trying to give away a kitten. Nobody writes copy like that for a motorcycle ad. You should say something like Used Motorcycle for sale: Ready for the road. Or, you could say Used Motorcycle for sale: Feel the wind against your face!
I quickly scanned the ad to see if there was a telephone number as I reached for the phone on the counter. Just for fun, I would dial the number and see what the guy’s line was anyway. It might provide a couple of laughs. Maybe I’d even offer some advice about advertising.
“Hello,” a voice answered. The tone was barely audible. I sensed I’d made a mistake and started to hang up when an old man’s voice said, “Is anybody there? Are you callin’ ‘bout my bike?”
“How did he know that?” I wondered, almost in disbelief. Lucky guess.
“If you’re callin’ ‘bout my bike,” he repeated, “I can tell ya – she’s a real beauty!”
“Yeah,” I said, in spite of an overwhelming desire to just hang up the phone and go back to my chair. “What can you tell me about your bike, sir?”
For the next half hour, I listened to the old man go on and on about how he’d saved his money for years to buy a Harley Davidson. When the day finally came for him to pick it up, his wife said he acted like a child at Christmas. For the next three years, he rode that Harley every day, rain or shine. Then, his wife became seriously ill. Now, he needed to let the bike go in order to afford his wife’s medicine.
“I’ll let her go cheap,” the old man said. “Will you promise me you’ll take her out and ride her as often as you can? Motorcycles are made to be ridden, you know. They shouldn’t be cooped up in some garage all the time.”
I could hardly believe my words when I heard myself ask the old man for his address. He was thrilled. I could tell he was relaying everything I said to his wife. The excitement was almost too much for the old guy.
When I arrived at his house, the old man spoke with me on his porch for a few minutes and then we went into the garage to see the bike. I’m sure it looked as good as the day he drove it home from the motorcycle shop. Used motorcycle for sale, indeed!
We walked into the kitchen and made arrangements to close the deal. I could see a woman lying in a hospital bed in the living room. I pretended not to notice. When the old guy told me the price, I wrote him a check for $200 more. It just seemed right. He didn’t seem to hear me when me when I told him that his used motorcycle for sale ad had really hooked me. He had already gone to show his wife the check.
“Ad writers,” I chucked as I walked back to my car. “You’ve really got to watch them or they’ll have you buying something you had no idea you’d purchase.” As I drove away, I thought, “Man, I’m going to have to take some time off and ride that beauty!”
Looking for a used motorcycle for sale? Check out the following sites, but watch out. You may end up buying something. If so, enjoy!
Growing up in northeastern North Carolina,
John Luton marveled as his father told stories about his
childhood and World War II adventures. Bluebird
in Belgium relates those wonderful stories.
Dr. Luton teaches world literature and
mass communication at Elizabeth City State University.
The Lutons have three grown children.