Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Last night, after my bike was stolen, I called Eric Wu to see if he could suggest a good place to buy a used bike. He suggested the West Gate of Qinghua University. I met him at the KFC in Wudaokou right after my Chinese class. Low and behold, he had Leander and another graduate student with him. Both of them had just had their bikes stolen, too, so they were in need of new wheels. We went to a local restaurant, feasted on incredibly delicious pork ribs, sipped chrysanthemum tea, practiced saying "chrysanthemum," and talked about our problem.

They told me that the bike shops we were going to may not have a good used large-frame bike, but that I could order one.

"What do you mean, 'order one?'"

"Well, you tell them what you want, and they will find one for you?"

"What do you mean, 'find one'?"

"They will find one for you."

"You mean they will steal one."

"Now you understand."

I really couldn't blame them for their cynicism. This is the problem with crimes like petty thievery: people get so used to it, that they begin to take it for granted as being "just a part of life." But their cynicism not withstanding, the police do raid bicycle shops that are knowingly selling stolen bicycles. There is an attempt to deal with the problem. But it is a very difficult problem, because there are so many thousands of bicycles, and they are so easy to steal.

"It's harder to find the large kind of bicycle that you like."


"Because nobody wants to steal them. There's no market."

Well, they were at least partly right. That was one thing I had going for me. Well, that, and the fact that my bicycle was obviously very old. In fact, the guy who stole it either didn't check it out very well, or didn't check it out at all. He is going to have a hard time making any money on it. Of course, that doesn't help me any. The point is that no matter how old your bicycle is, you never have an absolute guarantee that bicycle thieves (especially professional ones) will not see at least some value in it. Sooner or later, it's going to be stolen.

But the difficulty in finding a good used bicycle was not the only thing that troubled me. If I buy a bike from a shop that deals in stolen merchandise, then I am becoming a part of the problem. A bicycle is stolen, sold to a shop, where it is soon purchased by someone like me, who just had his bicycle stolen. The more I thought about this, the more it bothered me. When I got to the bicycle shop, the students' concerns were confirmed. They did not have a used bike like the one I had lost. But they said they could order one for me. I went to a neighboring bike shop and bought a new bike. I expressed my concern about such a new bicycle being stolen. The shop owner shared my concern, and suggested that I could buy a can of spray paint, and make it "look" older. Hmm... why didn't I think of that?

After buying my bicycle, I went back to the other shop. The shop owner saw the free lock I had been given, and told me it was worthless. I asked him why. He grabbed a key at random and opened it. It turns out that the free locks they hand out can all be opened by the same key. Kinda handy in a way, because if you lose your key, you can just borrow one from a friend. But the problem is...forget it. If I have to tell you what the problem is, you're probably not where you need to be to be able to handle this concept. Anyway, it was a very effective sales pitch. He sold me a heavy duty titanium steel lock.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?