We were in Kaohsiung, Taiwan through the entire 1990s. During that time, Taiwan’s government put into place a law requiring people riding motorcycles to wear helmets. Old guys with whom I sat by the streetside complained, “it’s only to profit the manufacturers and sellers of helmets”, and “you’ll never see a grandmother with one on.” They were wrong. The first few weeks there were reserve police officers at every major intersection. When the light turned red he or she would wade into the scrum of motorbikes and begin writing citations. People began to comply, if not to protect their lives and heads, then to protect their money.
By Prince Roy – originally posted to Flickr as Taipei: Old School, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4556340
Men and women who “drive the big rigs” on interstate highways in the USA have colorful nicknames for the others on the highway. The Highway Patrol Officer, the cattle truck, the small sedan and the motorcyclist are all designated by shorthand. Motorcyclists are called “organ donors”. I used to refer to unhelmeted motor scooter pilots in Taiwan, especially those weaving through traffic at high speed, the same way.
Motorcycle helmet laws in the United States vary by location. Only three of the fifty states are entirely unregulated. In some others, only people under the age of 21 are required to wear safety protection. The State of Florida is one of these. Anyone on two wheels and a motor over the age of 21 is welcome to join the organ donor class.
Recently, in this time of plague, the Republican governor there has welcomed another class of people into the “take your life into your own hands” crowd. Fundamentalists of all religions are free to gather in large groups indoors for worship and prayer. As in other places, religious gatherings have been demonstrated to be hotspots for the spread of disease. People will die, not FOR their faith, but OF their faith. Governor DeSantis said that he didn’t think it necessary to order churches to stop gathering. He’s ecumenical, though. It doesn’t matter if the congregations are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Jain, getting together is all up to the members.
Sadly, when like the two-wheel-equipped death-wishers these folks get what they’re asking for, they’ll not be eligible donors.
David Alexander resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.