Lounging on Bikes

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People in Vietnam and China love to sit or lounge on parked motorcycles, motor scooters, and bicycles. However, the practice is ubiquitous in Vietnam, possibly because of the climate–“It’s hot out here, I need to sit and have a latte and smoke.”

Many bike owners find this annoying, especially those who come from countries with long established traditions of parking lot dings. “Aw, would you look at that!” Even while your sitting in your car a guy can pull into the parking space next to you, throw his door open and ding you.

How do you deal with this? If you’re English you maintain a self-imposed reticence. If you’re an American you reach in the glove-box. And if you’re Chinese, you observe complete and utter stoicism. I’ve seen people here get repeatedly banged on the head by some woman’s elbow as she stands in the aisle of the bus talking to the passenger behind them. I’ve seen people in restaurants continue eating their meals, oblivious to the 18-month old baby banging on the table with a serving spoon. People will stand right between you and the television you’re watching, pull directly in front of you on their motorcycle at a stop light and blow smoke in your face. Is that enough?

I used to find all this irritating, especially people sitting on my bicycle. But now I park my bicycle at the curb and invite people to sit down. I decided not to worry if they’re going to weaken the kickstand or play with the handle-grips and brakes or get the seat dirty. I look at my bike as common property and thus assume that I’ll have to clean it or fix it a little more often than if it wasn’t. And if someone steals it, no problem, I’ll look at its total expense as “rent”–my current bicycle’s daily rent now stands at 16 cents (US) and decreases slightly every day. I do all this, rather than stew in my own anger’s juices, because it will add years to my life. I think the trade-off is worth it.

I know this won’t work for everybody, but what’s the alternative? Invite the Hell’s Angels to start a chapter in Hanoi and teach the locals? “You can look, but don’t touch.” The bar of my bike has an ugly scratch, and its tail reflector is smashed, both punishments purposely and anonymously administered while I was away (I pedal like an idiot through this city–Kunming), and I just smiled and thought, “communal bike.” 

So I keep my bike clean and polished and treat it like a beloved war veteran. And someday when it becomes too gnarly, I’ll either learn how to ride more discreetly, or get a new bike.

The above was written as a comment on the below blog’s post:

http://ourmaninhanoi.com/2010/12/02/motorbike/

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About soaringdragons

Twenty years and still alive--in China, that is. I write about China and the world of spirit--all very non-expertly--and whatever else strikes my fancy. You'll find posts on even days of the month.
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