Born to be wild … and self-conscious

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 – a breeze, really – 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 1-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 skinny 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. (You really do learn something new every day.)

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?

I am not amused.

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. A mover. A shaker. Dare I say, a hipster.

I take off my helmet and shake my white hair loose.

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.

They are afraid to walk to their cars.

I put the helmet back on, fire up the Piaggo and scoot away, knowing they are flabbergasted by the view.

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!