Any of my friends in Ireland will know I don’t often go far without my car. In China, this pedestal has been filled with an ebike, which gets me across town everyday. In order to get the most out of your ebike you need to be prepared; make sure the battery is charged and make sure you have your balaclava at the ready to brave the evening temperature lows (which are currently at -3°C). Last Wednesday evening I was prepared for both. I had enough battery to get to my friend’s house where I could charge the bike and was fully wrapped up to make the drive from where I had parked.
After a yummy dinner we began to make our way home, although what I had failed to anticipate was my bike’s reaction to a passenger (in the form of a large man). After thirty seconds or less the bike began rapidly decreasing in speed. I asked my friend to get off, thinking the bike just hadn’t enough power for the both of us (it can be a little fussy), but after trying by myself I realised this was more than a mere power struggle. The bike almost came to a halt, while its rear end drifted erratically. I reluctantly dismounted to get a better look and using the nightlight (sometimes we all need one) on my phone, I discovered an unhappy tyre.
After some language which needn’t be mentioned in the blog, I had no choice but to abandon the bike and get a cab home. A couple of days later when I had the time I ventured back to see if the problem had miraculously fixed itself, or if not, if I could rectify it. I spotted a garage on the opposite side of the road where after explaining the problem, they directed me to an ebike repair place nearby.
Pushing an ebike with a flat tyre wasn’t the ideal way to spend my Sunday afternoon, especially with little to no upper body strength, but in typical Chinese fashion all the necessary tools were displayed on the ground outside, making the repair shop easy to find.
Along with the drills, hot water flasks and a bottle of washing up liquid which were in a heap outside the shop, there was also a kettle, some pliers, a tub of glue and a cleaver no less. In addition there was beautiful pup; its lead tied to a motorbike.
After dealing with another customer the boss came to me. He spotted the problem and propped the bike on its stand with further ado. As the boss examined the tyre I asked him was the dog his. It turned out it was, and it was seven months old. Every so often the dog would bark, as if he knew we were talking about it, but just one shout from the boss and the dog would creep away quietly, nestling itself between two parked motorbikes.
I commented on how well behaved the dog was, especially in comparison to mine at home. This comment invited a series of questions, which of course my limited Chinese vocabulary about dog breeds restricted me from answering as well as I would have liked.
While I waited, an elderly lady carrying a crying boy came pottering over. The boy saw the dog and his cry was quickly replaced with a chuckle. There was a little girl at the woman’s feet too, chomping on a mandarin orange. She too was very amused by the dog. The dog crept out from his lair to greet them. No sooner had he made his appearance than the girl flung a piece of her orange at him. I wasn’t sure if she had intended this as an act of aggression or if her throw had been misjudged (as she was only about two or three), until the dog gobbled it up and she stooped down with her hands on her knees，as if trying to make eye contact with the creature and asked him happily “好吃吗？”…”Was it yummy?”
Before long the boss told me the bike was ready to ride again. As it was my first time being somewhere like this I was unsure what price to expect. I hesitantly asked the boss what I owed him, to which he told me five yuan. I repeated his price to double check, a stutter in my voice. He nodded with no expression. Even for China that was cheap. Although, funnily enough I had just had some shoes repaired for the same price this week. I’d had the same astonished face then too.
Soon another man came along and though I really should have been on my way then I decided to hang out and see what he was up to. He started playing with the dog, wrestling it with one foot while the children watching and giggled between crocodile tears. I’m not sure what the man’s relationship was to the boss, but he quickly offered to walk the dog. The man obliged and off they went.
I thought it was probably time I go home too.
On my way back I thought about how far my 5元 had gotten me this week. Repaired shoes, repaired puncture. While wondering what my next 5元 would be well spent on, the answer appeared to me in a vision; a man making noodles from scratch on the side of the road.
5元. Jobs a good ‘un.
For those of you who were wondering, 5元 is currently worth 66 cents in Euro, 80 cents in US Dollars and 52 pence in Pounds Stirling.