Drab narrative of a drab couple of hours….

This post is about the two and a half impossibly long hours that I spent while my new MTB (thank you, thank you!) was being fixed up, that is, transformed from being just a frame in supine position to a complete bike that could stand on its own just yesterday. And for the record, I had bargained for a scooty. Apparently, when one bargains for a scooty, one gets a cycle. One then wonders if one must have bargained for a car to get a scooty. Sigh!

Coming back to those two hours. I remember writing once about how certain things made me feel all grown up and all. Well, here’s another. You know you’re grown up when you can sit on a wobbly tool for an hour and a half straight and watch the complexities of what seems like a million nuts and bolts being fit into the right places with just the right amount of tension, and manage to ask “How much longer is it going to take?” just once. And when the bored salesman takes one look at the mechanic at work and answers “Another hour”, you just give a sweet smile and say nothing in return, although there are a lot of possible retorts right there on the tip of your tongue. Definitely grown up. The I-pod not being there with me just when I needed it the most, and the P990i, once the sole source of entertainment in my life kind of losing its charm over the years, I was left to my own devices. And what I found out in that time was that you can find out pretty much about the intricate tapestry of human behavior if you just manage to shut your own mouth and keep your eyes and ears open to what’s happening around.

The first thing that I managed to notice was a young little thing, just in his pre-teens, squatting on the pavement outside the shop, next to the mechanic who was magically making a cycle out of just frames and nuts and bolts right in front of his eyes. Every five minutes he’d run inside to where his father was sitting (yeah, that is after all a common sight….people waiting and wearing their seats off until the seat of the cycle is ready to be sat on) and give him updates. The handle was not yet fixed, the seat wasn’t even anywhere in sight, what about the handle covers, and the bell? And each time his father would give him a benevolent smile (maybe, growing up even more gives one the serenity to handle that too) and ask him to be patient and wait some more. I kind of remembered the time when I was getting my first cycle. Mind you, that was only after and only because the hand me down cycle that I had got from my sister got stolen from our garage. Thankfully, I was spared the torture of having to wait in the shop, although, waiting back at home and rushing to the gate each time I fancied having heard a bell was equally tormenting. And I could understand the little guy’s excitement and impatience, the thrill of finally calling something your own, one that would take years to repeat itself, until you start earning your own money and can finally say that something is truly yours. Finally when the cycle was all done, he rushed into the shop, breathless…and it would have done one’s heart good to just see that glow on his flushed face. When the salesman asked him to put his name and address on the warranty card, he looked at his father, his eyes questioning,  and the gentleman told him to go right ahead and write his name and their address. It was after all, his cycle. Not his father’s. And I guess there couldn’t have been a happier soul within miles as he scribbled his name on that paper (asking beforehand if he could write his name in Assamese…he got intimidated by the English writings on it) and went out the shop holding his father’s hand and the paper tightly held in the other fist.

And while there was pride and happiness on one hand, the very next moment I witnessed something so heartbreaking that it got me thinking (it anyway doesn’t take much to get me thinking) for hours after it was over. While my bike was somehow standing with the mechanic holding it all the time, a couple, along with their daughter who couldn’t have been older than three, came in to buy a tricycle. Yeah, the ones which look all plastic-y and colorful and you wonder if that structure which reminds you so much of the play-doh that kids make silly stuff with could even hold the weight of the kid, leave alone move on its own. And so this couple chooses one which looks like it could be within their budget (they seemed to be within a tight one) and the kid wanted to try out the cycle. The first thing the darling does is check out where the bell is, and the salesman shows her the cute little red bell that keeps turning upside down each time it is pressed. And all she does is giggle, and press it again, and again. But then the father asks for the price, and declares it exorbitant and simply pulls the poor kid off from the cycle. The rip in her tiny little heart could be heard for a long time after they went out of the shop….she kept holding the bell to keep her father from taking her away from the cycle, and the moment they reach the doorstep she let out a heart rendering wail, while the father ruthlessly kept saying that it was too expensive, and she couldn’t have it. And the first feeling I had was that of helplessness, and then of anger at the father, who should have known better than to let the kid play with something he knew she couldn’t have. But the next moment I wondered what the father could have done….if it broke my heart just to see her cry, what must the father be going through. Sad thing, this.

And as I sat there with a heavy heart, a guy came in; a Manipuri guy who had this agelessness about him that I associate with people belonging to that community. And what made him endearing to me was that he wanted to buy a walker for his baby. The obsessed baby lover that I am, all it took was for me to take one look at that (once again, plastic-y) dark blue walker which had cartoons and squeaky push buttons all over it to go “Awwwww….isn’t this cute?” and start imagining dimpled ankles and pink feet tottering on the floor…. To add to it, the guy actually took his time in choosing the perfect one, one which didn’t have cracked and mismatched wheels and one whose squeaky buttons actually squeaked when pressed, earning him extra brownie points on the dad thingy. Like it mattered to him to get it perfect for his kid, inspite of the fact that the baby wasn’t even of an age to make choices; to like or dislike something on the basis of something as trivial as color.

Just to make a point, yet again. Even as all this was happening, I was still sitting in one place. Any antonym for hyperactivity?

Well then, just when my patience was wearing thin and I had started missing being home for lunch, came in two men, who looked like all they wanted to do was have some fun and fool around. And I expected the salesmen to treat them like they knew it too. What surprised me was the way they took the two men pretty seriously and actually gave in to their demands…! The guys wanted to know if the tires were genuine Ralson, what would be the cost if they took a new one since the one already fitted was worn off (and that, on a cycle never even ridden!), and if they had something called “Lorry” cycles. Maybe I should just write in the ensuing dialogue. Mind you, it actually sounds funny in Assamese.

Man 1: So do you have the Lorry cycle?

Salesman: Lorry cycle? Is there even a thing like that?

Man 2: Yes. The best cycle there is.

Salesman: Oh you mean, the Railey cycle? The one which had stopped being marketed years ago?

Man 1: Pffft! You get it in Rangapara.

Salesman: (Sniggers) Really? Let us know where. Even we’ll get it.

Man 1: (Hesitant this time) Don’t know for sure if they’re the original ones, though.

Salesman: (Triumphant) Oh that…then even we can get you duplicate Raileys.

Man 2: Oh yeah? And where will you get it from?

Salesman: (Slightly irritated by now) We’ll get it anyhow…. Which one will you buy today?

Man 1: (Gets on the frame, one which doesn’t have the seat) This one’s crooked. The handle is all crooked.

Salesman: That one’s not even fitted.

Man 1: Its crooked alright. Not buying this.

Salesman: We’ll fix that for you.

Man 2: Then fix it up. Quick.

Salesman: Can’t be that quick. These things take time.

Man 1: (getting off the frame) We know how much time it takes, we’ll come on time.

Man 2: (taking a look at MY cycle being fixed next to them) If you ignore this and keep doing something else then obviously it’ll take time.

And then they walk out laughing and thumping each other’s back, just like that. So I turn around to ask the salesman how they manage to keep their patience with customers like this (the ever inquisitive person that I am), and I see the mechanic actually starting to work on that cycle. I was almost like, hello! Don’t you see they don’t even intend to buy the cycle? Do they look like the can buy that cycle? But then, maybe that’s what makes them good salespeople. The ability to handle all sorts of people and manage to do business keeping everything aside, without being affected by the ever fluctuating demands of the customers.

So where the hell was I? Yeah….waiting, and waiting some more till finally my flashy cycle was all ready for a test ride. By the way, the brakes make an eerie wailing noise each time I press them too hard, and the left pedal has a mind of its own and keeps evading my feet (have to go get them fixed again). But it is mine. And as for the two hours spent worthlessly, well….the only thing that could be even more worthless is spending another two writing about it. And so I had to do it.

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