Hannah talked quickly into her cell phone, looking at me with a pained expression on her face. The news was grim. The scooter shop finally figured out why my scooter was rattling, and it was going to take more than duct tape and careful driving to avoid costly repairs.
I’ve lived in Taiwan for approximately 12 weeks. Yesterday as I was scooting back to the apartment, I heard my back tire flopping and the scooter was pulling to the side as I maneuvered around curves. Muttering to myself, I stopped and crouched behind the scooter so I could glare menacingly at the flat tire. It lazily smooshed out on the sides, promising me a struggle. As this was my fourth flat since moving here, I’ve had plenty of practice rolling my scooter to the nearest scooter repair shop, which are thankfully all over the place.
Twenty minutes later I was negotiating my way through a conversation with the mechanic, a fellow customer who acted as my interpreter, and a second mechanic who took notice of my tire. Not only was the tiny, shiny screw poking proudly out of the treads, but my tire was practically bald; the mechanics couldn’t believe I hadn’t replaced the tires yet. I asked if I’d be able to drive home, and they exchanged incredulous looks. “Maybe?” was their best guess. I stepped aside and called Hannah, a Taiwanese friend, and she quickly met me at the shop.
Hannah and I were leaving the shop with my scooter after waiting 24 hours and spending $100. I had two brand new tires, my brakes were tightened, my mirrors fixed, the oil topped off. It was like driving a brand new scooter… that is, until we started the ride back to my apartment. I heard a rattling noise coming from under my seat. I honked at Hannah, my horn pathetically whining out to her that something was wrong. We stopped, switched rides so she could see if it happened to her as well, and circled back to the shop. The mechanics saw us and immediately met us by my scooter. A quick inspection and test drive revealed nothing, so Hannah and I left the shop and told them to call when they knew what was wrong.
It was a couple hours later when Hannah, Gretchen and I were at Costco buying food for our Thanksgiving meal. Hannah answered her ringing phone, and hung up after setting an appointment for her, Juan and me to return to the shop and discuss my options. Juan is a mechanic and will be able to help me decide the best course of action.
The rim for my back tire is bent. When I heard the news, I grimaced and nodded; it was only a matter of time before all the flat tires took a toll on the frame of the scooter. This is a costly repair, and I have to weigh my options. Scooters, especially older ones, are money pits, and there’s no way around that. Do I continue to sink money into a scooter that’s older, or do I sell it at a major loss and buy a newer, far more expensive scooter or motorcycle?
Through it all, Hannah and I erupted into laughter multiple times. It’s frustrating, but scooter repairs are a fact of life here; something is always going wrong. I’ve been known to hurl insults at my scooter and threaten it with violence as the latest problem arises, but the major cost is time spent fixing the problem. This is the first time I’ve had to spend more than a few bucks to keep the scooter in fighting shape, and the previous owners weren’t willing to take care of it. In fact, two owners before me left it for dead. It was the owner right before me who spent a little money to keep it running. She spent the bare minimum, however, which means I bought what should now be officially referred to a lemon.
Right now I’m feeling stubborn, and I’m determined to attack this hunk of plastic until it works. I may be able to recoup a bit of what I’ve sunk into it if I make the right decisions, which means spending more money, but I get to reap the rewards of my efforts. As long as the scooter doesn’t fall apart during my 60km/hr drive to work, I’ll be satisfied.