Monday, June 05, 2006

China Stories Pt. 6: I Buy a Bicycle

You just couldn't live in Beijing and not own a bicycle. A bicycle was absolutely indispensible. It was still the predominant form of transportation. They were affordable for the average person, and they didn't take up a lot of space. As China has become more affluent, more and more people can afford motorcycles and cars, with disastrous conequences. The air and noise pollution are already terrible, and getting worse. The traffic congestion is getting worse all the time.

By 1989, there were many bikes to choose from - different styles, different shapes-- there was even a choice of colors! Not a lot of colors, but still, this was quite a departure after years of drab, monolithic conformity. For decades, bicycles were black. Period. There were multiple brands, but these were really just different factories building the same basic design. It was China's version of the Model T. Big, black, clunky. Relentlessly utilitarian.

That was exactly the kind I wanted.

There were three main brands of bicycle that I remember: there was "Feng Huang," or Phoenix, "Yong Jiu," or Forever, and "Fei Ge," or Flying Pigeon.

Based on names alone, I wanted a Flying Pigeon. Phoenix and Forever were probably very nice bikes and all, but come on! Who wouldn't want a Flying Pigeon?

I decided that I was definitely going to buy a used bike, so off I went to the neighborhood used bike store. I test-drove several, and got many helpful suggestions from the onlookers who had stopped just to watch me shop for a bike.

"Too small," said one.

"That one's no good," offered someone else.

"Hey! I'll sell you my bike- $100 (US) dollars!" Wise guy.

I chose one and haggled over the price. After the usual dance of bargaining, I had my bike. I paid the equivalent of around US$11. I don't know if that was a good deal or not, really. I just know I thought I got my money's worth out of it.

Just as I had planned, I came home with a large black Flying Pigeon.

A boy and his bicycle.


At 2:10 PM, Blogger leomange said...

as soon as you translated flying pigeon, that was the one i would have wanted! that's hilarious.

perhaps we're birds of a feather?


At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Kirin said...

Ish - You are a very good writer. this is more engaging than when you try to be funny. (Um, that was supposed to be a compliment.)


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