Monday, December 7, 2009

Ride Report: Used-car dudes and Mr. Cheng Guan

I set out on my Saturday ride about two hours later than I usually do. It's good to do this to get a fresh view of things. Chinese roads are filled with a new cast of characters every three hours. From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., you'll see the peloton of bedraggled migrant workers on their squeaky bikes. You also encounter lots of car washers who sit on the side of major roads with a couple buckets of water and some sponges. They'll scrub down your vehicle for a small fee.

But by 9 a.m., the car washers are gone and their spots are taken over by the used- car dudes. They put up a little sign that says "Qiu che," or "Seeking car." They sit on a stool or stand up while gesturing to drivers to stop and negotiate the sale of their car. On one stretch of road - Guangzhou Da Dao - that I ride on frequently, you'll see used car dudes lined up 10 meters apart for about 3 kilometers.

Funny, I've never seen anyone actually stop to discuss a deal with them. I'm not sure how the business works. Getting them to explain it is difficult because I don't think they're supposed to be working the roads like this. They certainly weren't happy about me snapping photos of them.

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Everyone knows that I can't resist an overloaded bike. This bike was stacked high with plastic dish washing liquid jugs. I guess the guy goes from restaurant to restaurant collecting them. I hope they get refilled.

I was taking a picture of the dish washing liquid bike when my new best friend pulled up.

I met this guy a couple weekends ago. I was hammering down the road when I heard someone huffing and wheezing behind me. He pulled up alongside me and asked why I was wearing a blinking orb on the back of my jersey. He was talking about the clip-on blinky light that I attach to my back jersey pocket. I told him that it makes me more visible in traffic, and he thought that was clever but kind of weird. I think the Chinese think that I shouldn't worry about drivers approaching me from behind because it's their responsibility to avoid me. Why spend money on equipment to help them to do their job?

He also thought my interest in the overloaded bike was strange. When I told him I was riding to the university district about 16 kilometers away, he was blown away that anyone would ride that far. I love these types of guys. Curious, good natured, upbeat. Check out his shoes - the classic People's Liberation Army sneaker, in camo!

He works for the "cheng guan," a government agency in charge of policing commercial activity on roads and sidewalks, among other things. They're the ones who terrorize the Tibetan women who hawk jewelry on the sidewalks and pedestrian overpasses throughout the city. I noted the "cheng guan" patch on his shirt, and said, "Oh, you work for the scariest government agency!" He just rocked back and let out a loud maniacal laugh, "Heewwaaayyaaaaah!"

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