*This post is by Greg Boose and Claire Bidwell Smith.


It’s common sense; it’s not just something you are told as a child and then realize is bullshit by the time you’re nineteen.

You don’t touch motorcycles that aren’t yours.

If you touch a stranger’s motorcycle, there’s a chance it could fall over.

And after that, only a variation of four situations can play out:

1. The motorcycle’s mysterious engine catches fire because it’s not used to being on its side, and explodes. Everyone in whatever radius is injured or dead.

2. You are so scared of whatever maniac who owns this motorcycle might do to you physically that you run directly into traffic or a hole and find yourself down an eye and a kidney two-and-a-half hours later.

3. The former high school football player who owns that motorcycle will turn his ball cap forward and attack without breaking the stride he began when hearing his bike crunch on the pavement. You will probably receive a black eye. Maybe a cracked rib or a loose tooth. Regardless, you’ll cry in front of a lot of people.

4. The 56-year-old who owns that motorcycle will threaten to sue you $5,000 for every scratch in his sparkle-y paint job, and then guilt you into taking a ride with him.

This is why nobody without a death wish walks past a motorcycle and drags a careless finger down its gas tank.

You don’t kick its tires.

You don’t check its shocks.

And you definitely don’t lean on it.

What you do, however, is find where the kickstand is planted and keep a cowboy’s stare on the bent part until you’re safely around the corner.

Somehow despite all these warnings and fears, Claire and I invented a game called Danger Touch.

The game manifested its dangerous self from a certain picture I used in a previous Nervous Breakdown story about my neighbor kids in Moorhead, Minnesota.

And how I’d like these kids to fall from the tree that grew under my bedroom window.

Hurt themselves.

Learn a lesson about climbing that tree and how it would be foolish to ever try again.

Go inside for their home schooling.

Let me be.

And since we need photos to accompany these Nervous Breakdown stories, I found myself standing in my apartment windows with my camera in hopes of capturing one of the little dirtballs doing something interesting.

From my bedroom window – notice the screen – I took this photo of the leader of the pack:


Pretty bold of him, if you ask me.

Just setting his hand down like that.

Just touching that motorcycle even though he knows he shouldn’t.

He’s knows it’s dangerous, and yet there he is on camera lowering his small paw onto the back seat of one.

As I’m sure you’ve heard or seen on a sitcom, supposedly it’s quite difficult to pull a motorcycle back into an 80-degree stance.

But I don’t worry anything about that because I’ve never had to try.

Because I don’t touch motorcycles.

Well, okay, I do now.

On a ridiculous level, actually.

As of Sunday, April 29, 2007, I’ve touched 15 motorcycles even though I know I shouldn’t have.

I took pictures of each one with my cell phone and sent them to Claire.

But that’s all part of the game Danger Touch.

Claire Bidwell Smith has touched even more. She’s winning right now with 16 DTs.

All of our pictures are posted on the Danger Touch Myspace page.


Last weekend my girlfriend Alex came over. We were drinking beer and talking about boys and I thought it would be a good idea if I showed her Greg’s Myspace page, and in particular a picture of a kid touching a motorcycle. Something about that picture really cracked me up. Alex loved it too.

The next day I received this text from Alex: I just walked by a motorcycle and touched it even though I know I shouldn’t.

I cracked up. Alex. She’s funny, I thought. I emailed Greg about Alex’s text.

Greg responded: Tell Alex not to touch motorcycles or sports car without asking first. She can get in a lot of trouble. This made me laugh too.

I had no idea what had just begun.

The next morning when I got up I did all the things I usually do. I fed the cats, opened the windows, made coffee, and checked my phone. There was a text from Greg. It was just a picture. I doubled over laughing. I admired the early morning light filtering over the shiny engine body.


The next day I took an afternoon walk to the post office. On my way there I scanned the streets for parked motorcycles. How cool would Greg think I am if I sent him a picture back of me touching a motorcycle? At the post office there was a guy in line ahead of me. He was holding a motorcycle helmet. Bingo, I thought.

Motorcycle guy turned around and checked me out. A million things flitted through my mind. Should I just bail on mailing my package and bolt outside to find this guy’s motorcycle and touch it before he finishes mailing his shit? No, wait, I could just ask him if I could touch his motorcycle. Wait, that would come off as kind of weird, wouldn’t it? I’d have to explain the whole thing about the picture and the kid and this guy Greg in Chicago that I’ve never met… and, oh fuck, he’s done, he’s leaving. Dammit!

I mailed my stuff and walked outside. Motorcycle guy was nowhere to be seen. Fuck it, I thought. I’ll just walk around and look for a motorcycle. It’s Venice Beach, there’s bound to be one. I walked through Windward Circle, past the video store and the punk rock haircut place. I walked down Cabrillo and then cut over to Rialto where my friend Lucy used to live.

And suddenly I spotted it. A shiny black and white moped. It was parked in front of a house. I crossed the street. My heart started pounding. I saw a guy come out of a house a few doors down. I fiddled with my phone on the sidewalk, trying to look like I was texting, when really I was getting my camera ready. The guy pulled away in his car. I walked up close to the moped and looked around one more time. Nobody. I reached my hand out and the moment my skin met the leather seat I snapped a shot and was walking away before the phone had even made that fake camera sound:


I just touched somebody’s moped! It was fucking thrilling. I felt high. I immediately texted the picture to Greg.

He wrote back right away – G: 1 C: 1

Fuck yeah, I thought. It’s on. I’m in. I was on a mission. My phone beeped again.

Another text from Greg: That’s a moped!! Voided!

Voided?! Initially, I was outraged. I just touched a stranger’s moped! And it doesn’t count?! A moment later, I caught sight of a rusty motorcycle parked just outside of a carport. I ran over and touched it, took a picture. Take that, Greg Boose.


He responded in kind. He’d found a motorcycle too.


I wrote back: I love this game. What’s it called?

Hardly a beat went by before my phone beeped back with Greg’s response: It’s called Danger Touch.

Since that afternoon, I’ve touched 15 more motorcycles, a cop car, and a vacuum cleaner that I saw on the side of the street. I can’t stop. On Friday, on my way to see my shrink, I whipped a U on Westwood Blvd in the middle of traffic, just to snap a DT.


When I realized just how serious Claire was getting, I had to write up some official rules for Danger Touch:

1. One point is awarded per motorcycle touched and photographed.

2. Vehicle must be a true-blue motorcycle.

a) No mopeds, scooters, motorbikes, or anything else that might have two wheels or make a kick ass noise.

b) Any representation of a motorcycle – toys, paintings, signs, earrings, tattoos, etc. – are not eligible.

3. Your hand must be physically touching the motorcycle.

a) None of this Claire-hovering-hand bullshit.

4. Picture can only be taken by the player, and must be taken with his or her own cell phone.

5. All pictures must be taken in the daytime to enhance the danger of being seen.

6. The motorcycle must be that of a stranger’s.

a) The motorcycles of acquaintances do not count.

b) You may not tell a motorcycle operator about Danger Touch, and you may not ask to take a picture of his or her motorcycle.

c) You may not enter a romantic relationship with a motorcycle operator or maintainer throughout the duration of the game.

7. The motorcycle being dangerously touched does not have to be unmanned.

a) Five points are awarded if the motorcycle has a person sitting on it.

8. If one comes across a gaggle of parked motorcycles, then only one is eligible for touching.

9. Police motorcycles count as ten points.

a) Police horses do not count, but it’s always nice to pet them because they like it.

10. If a helmet is present, then your hand must be photographed touching the helmet.

11. The Danger Touch must be actively recognized and approved by the other player.

12. You must wash the danger off your hands before shaking hands with anyone, or before touching your face.

With Claire’s contagious excitement, the game grew quickly.

With every step outside my apartment, I’m looking for my next motorcycle to touch.

Searching for a handlebar sticking out of a row of cars.

Checking the small parking spaces.

Listening for one of those mysterious engines to cut off.

Here I am in a bank parking lot:


It’s ridiculous.

It’s at the point where I even stop to take pictures of the unattainable ones.


Since the beginning of Danger Touch, I’ve only shied away from two motorcycles.

They were parked on a curb just ten feet from a large outside restaurant brimming with patrons, and I was pushing my niece in a stroller.

I walked right on past them.

Walked right on past and acted as if my lower back wasn’t being flooded with cold shoulder sweat.

Totally wish I had that chance back.

I didn’t see any at all today.

The official Danger Touch site is up and running like Claire after a Harley.

You can challenge anyone in the country – be it a friend, foe, or your lonely cousin with her huge aquarium and small forehead – and post your motorcycle-touching pictures and comments.

It’s easy.

It’s fun.

It’s addictive.

And yes, it’s dangerous.

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GREG BOOSE grew up in northeast Ohio, got his MFA degree in Moorhead, MN, and now lives in Chicago. His writing has appeared on/in The Huffington Post,The Big Jewel, Yankee Pot Roast, Monkeybicycle, Opium Magazine, McSweeneys.net, Hobart, Feathertale, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, Chicago Reader, NFL.com and more. Along with his wife, he is the co-editor for BlackBook Magazine's guide to Chicago. He won the 2008 Readers' Choice Award and Editor's Choice Award for satire in Farmhouse Magazine.

You must be this tall to visit his website at gregboose.com.

Follow him on Twitter at Greg_Boose.

2 responses to “How it Came to be That Greg Boose and Claire Bidwell Smith Can’t Stop Touching Motorcycles Even Though They Know They Shouldn’t”

  1. […] The next day, on a ferry on our way to the island of Koh Chang, the three of us quietly sipped at cans of Singha. We would have to figure out another way to survive our twenties. Perhaps something less crazy than illegally-imported Asian t-shirts and something a little more upstanding like a game that involves touching other people’s motorcycles. […]

  2. […] on The Nervous Breakdown there was a story about Danger Touch, inspired by a photo taken by Greg Boose (one of my favorite writers on the site). When I read it, […]

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