tears streaming down my cheeks

December 12th, 2007

My bike got stolen. I’m very sad. Really, I am.

Alright, I’m not. It’s a pity the bastard had to cut a perfectly good lock to steal my bike. Well, no, obviously it was not a very good lock at all.

Ok, so I have no reason to be sad about the theft of my bike.

So walking home from class this afternoon, I noticed something odd about the outside wall of my building. I stared at that spot of wall for a minute or two trying to figure out what had changed, and then it hit me square in the forehead: my bright green fold-up bike was not there. I got closer and saw the lock cut and lying on the ground. Aha! I thought. I know what happened: Some not-too-bright opportunist with a pair of bolt cutters or some similar implement good enough to cut through my weak little wire surrounded by thick plastic bike lock made off with my bike. Well, he deserves everything he’s going to get as he works out why my bike was given to me for free.

lzh suggested it may have been one of the recyclers, but I don’t think so. There is a pile of far more obviously abandoned bikes at the other end of the building, and they are untouched. Clearly the thief was looking for something rideable. Clearly he is not the most observant of bike thieves. Either that or a broken front brake doesn’t bother him.

And how did my bike get to be left outside when it used to be kept inside behind the security door that does a pretty good job of keeping undesirables out of our building (assuming my fellow residents don’t just automatically buzz people in every time the bell rings, as I am wont to do…. oh, oops….)? Well, we’ve had a minor saga involving the parking of bikes inside and the sort of pathetic, childish nonsense you get when people who otherwise would never have known each other find themselves living in close quarters. In particular, the sort of childish nonsense you get in foreign teachers’ buildings in China.

Not that this building is set aside for foreign teachers. We are in a regular BeiGongDa staff housing estate- there are several- it’s just that the foreign teachers’ apartments are mostly in two doorways in one building in this estate. We also have Chinese families living in the same building and the same stairway, so we’re not in any way segregated. Just thought I should get that clear. If there is one thing that I really can not stand about the foreign teacher’s life, it’s segregated housing.

Anyway, so we’ve had a bit of silly nonsense involving the parking of bicycles inside. Funnily enough, those who have bikes prefer to park them inside at the bottom of the stairwell. That way, we have some protection against bike theft. Everybody has always done what they can to park their bikes out of the way so that the stairwell and doorway are left clear so that everybody can get in and out easily. Some people, none of whom own bikes, of course, object to this, however, and so complaints were made. The complaints led to notices being posted to tell us to keep our bikes outside. I played along by moving my bike from the second and a half floor landing where I had kept it well out of the way of everybody to the ground floor just inside the door but squashed under the stairs with the other bikes. The guy who keeps his bike on the first and a half landing paid no attention to the notice, however, but that’s probably because he can’t read Chinese- assuming I’ve matched the right bike with the right person and judged his language skills properly.

All was good for a couple of weeks, and then my bike was found dumped unceremoniously  back into something resembling its original position, its front brake lever shattered, and front brake cable hanging loose. No big deal, I thought, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix it, and it was obviously not done on purpose. Obviously somebody knocked it over by accident.

But then a notice appeared in English telling everybody to store their bikes outside.


And then I heard that it may well have been a certain foreign teacher who tripped over my bike and broke it and then complained. But rumours, you know…

And then lzh’s and my bikes were dumped outside. We pushed hers back inside, but I refused to put mine back on the second and a half landing where I’d originally stored it. It’s not light, my bike, and I really didn’t care whether it got stolen or rusty. Rust would probably have improved it, I think.

I have since made sure that lzh’s bike is in a position inside that no sane person could complain about.

Of course, the foreign teacher suspected of being behind all this silly nonsense does not strike me as being particularly sane or reasonable…. But so far, apart from the theft of my bike, there’s been no more silly nonsense.

I mean, you at best ignore my every attempt to smile, say “hi”, or otherwise acknowledge your existence in the generally accepted polite forms most human societies, including your own, have adopted, you often glower or glare at me as if my mere existence on this planet causes you unbearable suffering even though you’ve never paid enough attention to my meagre existence for me to do any kind of harm to you, you, according to the rumour I heard, somehow manage to trip over a bicycle that was stored under the stairwell as far out of everybody’s way as was humanly possible under the circumstances, you then throw the broken bicycle and my wife’s bicycle outside and complain to whoever is supposed to be in charge of such things, and…..

Well, you get the picture. China attracts a lot of weirdoes for some reason. I try to stay away from them. Sometimes I find myself sharing a building with them, but even then I try to let them go about their weirdo thing without disturbing or being disturbed by me. And I have absolutely no proof beyond a rumour that this particular weirdo is behind the silly nonsense with the bikes.

Anyway: My crappy bike has been stolen, and the thief has probably long since realised just how big an idiot he was to steal my bike. lzh’s bike, which we paid for, and which is of pretty good quality, is safe. Hopefully the silly nonsense will stop.

But I really have to wonder about the intelligence and observational skills of whoever stole my bike. I mean, it was free, and it offered a pretty good explanation of the saying “You get what you pay for.” I mean, free was still more than that piece of junk was worth. Really, the weight of my tea flask in the basket could twist the handle bars if I wasn’t careful. I kid you not. That happened to me countless times. I drink a lot of tea, but my flask is a fairly regular one litre metal and plastic job, not heavy at all. And there was no way to get the handle bars any tighter than they were. The seat wasn’t much better. And even the tiniest knock was enough to have the chain leaping off the cogs. I had to put the chain back on so many times I’m surprised I don’t have permanent grease stains on my hands. The furthest I ever dared to ride my back was to the Carrefour at Jiulongshan, not two kilometres up the road. I was reluctant to even try that- lzh forced the issue- and I was very relieved and surprised when I got back with both myself and my bike in one piece.

Still, I have to admit I was tempted to weld my bike to weirdo’s door sometime late at night when I knew he’d be home…… Too late for that now, I guess.

4 Responses to “tears streaming down my cheeks”

  1. John Says:

    How many people in this country, apart from foreigners, actually ride any bike fast enough to notice what you or I might regard as potentially fatal defects? The thief’s probably riding it around right now, congratulating himself on the quality of the bike he nicked, and utterly oblivious to its faults because his velocity is barely in excess of what I’d regard as a normal walking pace.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Ah, yes, but my bike was such utter crap that even at such low velocities the defects would quickly become apparent. The thief is probably looking for the stupidest, least observant second hand dealer in Beijing to sell the bike as quickly as possible. Either that or he sold it to a recycler.

  3. John Says:

    You know that Irony isn’t going to let this one pass by unmentioned. As you’re walking just nearby, some guy will come up to you with this particular death trap and try to sell it back to you.

  4. wangbo Says:

    You’re probably right. And when it happens, I’ll probably laugh so hard I’ll have to run home and change my undies.