28 October 2009

The Bicycle Diaries

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Maurice.

Maurice, in case it has not already become clear, is my new bicycle.  I've long been jonesing for some wheels -- it's hard to sustain the sensation of being a legitimate grown-up in the real world when one is walking to and from work every day and bumming rides to go out at night just like one did when one was fifteen, after all.  However, after much thought a serious heart-to-heart with my bank account, I was forced to admit to myself that a motorbike just wasn't in my immediate future.  But no sweat -- that's what bikes are for!

Actually, YES sweat, as it turns out.  A lot of sweat.  But I'm getting ahead of myself -- the story of how Maurice and I met is begging to be told!  Last weekend, after brunch and some grading at a café in downtown Yogya, Luna and I made our way slowly northward along a street that is lined with a bunch of bicycle shops, and hit the jackpot on our second try.  As we poked through the line of bicycles and debated the characteristics and qualities I was looking for in an ideal bike, it was actually Luna who first spotted Maurice at the end of the line.  It was, truly, love at first sight. And as all pursuits of true love ought to go, making Maurice my own was actually quite simple -- after some brief negotiation with the man who ran the shop and a waiting period during which Maurice's basket, bell, and lamp were affixed, Maurice was mine.  Done and done.

Now, since I had come downtown on the back of Luna's motorbike, naturally I had a motorbike helmet with me.  This meant, of course, that I would have to ride Maurice back home wearing said helmet.  I will not even try to begin to describe the deep degree of uncoolness that is instantaneously and unanimously ascribed to the person who chooses to ride a BICYCLE while wearing a MOTORCYCLE helmet in this city (more on this later), but I couldn't be bothered with such trivialities as my reputation at that moment -- I had Maurice.  

After waiting to make sure Maurice was actually a functional vehicle (there was only one small glitch -- Maurice's back tire suddenly going flat -- which was remedied in no time but which might have warned me of the events to come) Luna left me to my first magical ride and headed back uptown.  My first ten minutes with Maurice were glorious: I was flying along, the wind whipping across the surface of my helmet-bubbled head, and although the busses were roaring past me spewing vehicle exhaust into my tender lungs and the motorbikes swerving and honking maniacally to avoid us, we didn't notice.  We were happy.  It wasn't until I was gliding under the railroad tracks that I suddenly felt Maurice jerk and become wobbly -- after coasting to a halt at the bottom of the hill to take stock of the situation, I found to my horror and despair that somehow, inexplicably, Maurice's back tire had gone flat AGAIN. Under normal circumstances this would not have been an entirely huge deal since there are dudes with motorbike and bicycle repair stalls about every 200 meters on main roads, but first of all, I felt it wasn't right for Maurice to have been handed over to me in less than prime condition, and second of all, I had literally no cash left on me. Maurice had cost me a sum of money exactly equal to the sum of money I had in my wallet, and while at the time of purchase I had taken this as a sign that Maurice and I were destined for each other, at the present moment it left me with few other options but to turn us around and peddle slowly (and wobblyily) back to the shop so that the dude there could re-tube Maurice's back tire for a second time, for free.

Since no self-respecting seller of bicycles in Yogyakarta could quickly forget a strange western girl who bought a bike and rode it away with five pounds of heavy-duty plastic on her head (and also since only approximately 20 minutes had elapsed since I had purchased said bicycle), the guy remembered me right away and quickly -- and very apologetically -- changed Maurice's back tire again.  And then we were off.  Again.  This time there were no hang-ups, and I actually made it back home half an hour later having made exactly zero wrong turns and having been almost hit by a motorbike only once.  Pretty good for a first ride in Yogya, I'd say.  Here's where the "YES sweat" comes back in, though, as by the time I arrived home it appeared more likely that I had just swum the distance from downtown Yogya, or perhaps ridden Maurice through the Great Salt Lake.  Not the most attractive homecoming, to be sure, but that's pretty much what happens when you lift a finger in the tropics -- your sweat glands throw a party.  Try riding a bike a couple miles, and that party becomes a full-blown rager.  Just gotta go with the flow.  (I mean, even if you don't want to go with the flow, the flow's so strong it will pretty much just buoy you along anyway.)

I actually couldn't take Maurice to school on Monday or Tuesday because I didn't yet have a bike lock, but on Tuesday afternoon I finally acquired a fatty steel wire lock and took Maurice both out to dinner on Tuesday night, and to and from school today.  I have already been made fun of both for my fatty lock (which does actually weigh kind of a lot ...) and for wearing a helmet (thankfully no longer a motorbike helmet) by several Indonesians, including the parking attendants at my school, but hey -- I'm not taking any chances with Maurice or with my brain.  I care too much about both of these things to risk their being stolen or smeared across the sidewalk.  Sometimes you just have to make the choice to look like a complete idiot (a feeling I have grown accustomed to since moving to Asia) -- and besides, it makes for great blogs.  

So anyway, that's Maurice -- I'm sure you'll be hearing much more from us in the months to come.  In the meantime, we can all sit back and be thankful that "themotorbikediaries" was not an available URL on blogspot, since that blog title would by now have become not only irrelevant, but also inaccurate.  I think I'll take that as a sign, too.

1 comment:

  1. firstly, you are still wearing a motorbike helmet.

    secondly, they first fixed the front tire at the shop, so i'm not surprised that your back tire went out. you were too busy giggling to notice which i tire they were fixing i suppose. hehe.