Even though me and the guards working at our complex in general get along well and enjoy some quality game time together, there has to be someone living around here that doesn’t like me.
I was shocked yesterday morning when I went down to the bike parking lot and discovered that my precious bike had been ‘vandalized’: someone had stolen (!) the bike bell, ruined the backlight and tried to steel my geeky, old-lady-style bike basket (although they might have been caught in the act because it was still hanging onto my bike on a mere screw). Since I rely so much on my bike I decided to get it fixed by once, despite the fact that it was raining cats and dogs outside.
Now, there’s a thing with me and shops. If I find a shop, let’s say a bike shop, that I like, no matter where in the city it is located, I will always return there. Last time my bike was in need of some aid I went to a small, dirty little place located at the other end of Suzhou to where I live (don’t ask me what I was doing there –I assume that I was out ‘enjoying a bike ride’ or something like that?). Since I got immaculate service from two old men running the shop, I had no other choice but to return to this very shop.
Sure, I did get a bit wet but it was well worth the trip (although going on a bike ride without a bike bell was like pure torture. I almost killed myself as well as a bunch of pedestrians. Note to self: there is no such thing as riding a bike without a bike bell over here). I’m not sure if the repair guy recognized me although I think so, because he gave me a friendly giggle when he saw me, completely soaked, standing in his shop. (Last time I was there –to get a new bike basket- I managed to impress him as I knew the Chinese word for both basket (篮子-lan zi) and tire (轮胎 -lun tai) and he called me a ‘smart laowai’ before we said our goodbyes).
-My bike needs some repairing! I said.
-Oh I can tell it does! He said. You want a new bell?
-The cheapest one you’ve got (I was considering the fact that someone living in our complex might be collecting bike bells so I figured I would go for something quite tacky looking in order to not have it stolen again).
He went to a bag and grabbed a pink, shiny bell.
-Have you got something even cheaper? Not so good looking?
This made him smile a little, before he nodded and went into another room. He came back carrying a low-key, black, boring looking bell.
-Perfect. I said. Does it work?
He tried it for me, but there was no ringing sound. Actually, it barely made any sound at all. Just a low, rusty sounding ‘rrrrrrr.’
-OK, no, I can’t use that! I said. How much is the pink one?
-OK I will take that one then. How much is this one by the way (pointed at the black, useless bell).
-But it doesn’t even make a sound?! Does anyone buy it?
We both laughed. (I guess cheap bastards like me do)
He changed my bike bell and fixed the backlight and the basket. While he was at it, he also did some extra ‘touching up’ on my bike.
Meanwhile he was fixing my bike another customer walked in, keen to buy a bike. Oblivious to the fact that the old man was busy, he started asking around and touching bikes in the shop. I was expecting the repair guy to abandon my bike to make a sale, but nope… he was so devoted to repairing my bike that he didn’t even care about his new customer, who in the end left –bike-less.
Once the old man was done (and my bike was shining like a new one!) I gave him a 10 kuai-note and said:
-Is 10 kuai enough?
-No! I already told you. Five kuai.
-I already told you. 5 kuai for the bell. Now wait here I will bring you your change.
Wow. Now that’s a conversation I don’t often have in China.
Some minutes later I left on my as-good-as-new looking bike, happy as a day. Going back to places where you've gotten good service sure is the way to go in China. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.