Sunday, May 03, 2009

What's Missing From This Picture?

This is the bicycle parking lot outside of the School of Government at Peking University. Yes, there are a lot of bikes...And this photo was taken during a three-day holiday weekend. (Last Friday, May 1st, was Laodongjie. You know it as May Day.)

One bike, however, did not make it into the picture...MINE!

The story, at first glance, is pretty simple. I went down to grab my bike and ride across campus to go get lunch, train tickets...Something like that. After walking up and down the rack for like five minutes, even a dummy like me began to realize what was going on. (Really, what had already gone on!) I guess I am now a true Beijinger!

Now, before you go lamenting the sad state of public security on campus, my take on this is that it is really a story of me getting more and more comfortable with my life here, to such an extent that life decided to bite me back. Here's the progression...

In the beginning, I always brought my bike up to my office when I arrived on campus. This had the appearance of making me look ridiculous, as hundreds of students and faculty members lock their bikes outside every day.

Caving into this benign pressure, I pretty quickly began leaving my bike downstairs during the course of the work day. If, however, I was taking the bus home, I would be sure to run downstairs, fetch my bike, and cart it up to the fourth floor for its overnight stay on campus.

Eventually, I stopped doing even this. Students and faculty leave their bikes all over campus, outside their residences, and in other areas where you can find scores of bikes lined up, even during the month-long Spring Festival break. At one point, during the winter, my bike was outside of the School of Government for weeks straight.

More recently, during our spate of back-to-back-to-back trips, my bike once again had the chance to chill out for an extended period. I left it there despite a potentially prescient observation that Z made about the deteriorating condition of my bike lock. Now, not only was my bike vulnerable in terms of sheer time spent outdoors, it was also perhaps a relatively obvious target for a thief with the right equipment. You definitely don't want your bike to stand out in any way here in China!

Desi has now passed her bike on to me...A gesture made possible only by the "one size fits all" nature of ordinary street bikes. (Let's put it this way...Z looks way better on a bike of this size than I do!) And where is this bike right now? Yep, you guessed it...Parked outside the School of Government building...At least I hope it is!

~Steve

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