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Right: When Bicycles queuing gets out of hand (in this case in Phnom Penh) PHOTO ©IWAN GABOVITCH, CC


Miss Patricia On Yer Bikes I


t’s finally time to take our old bicycles in for tune-ups. We tried


it before, back in that Fall Spring we had after the summer (? yeah, weird). And as is usually the fate of


Americans offering money to some- one in England, we were chastised and sent on our way. ‘We’d like to have these bikes


repaired, please’, Mr Patricia began, he thought reasonably enough. We were in a bike shop, where repairs were advertised in the window, and some new, shinier models formed a congregation around us. A pale young salesclerk…sorry, salesCLARK…regarded us with doubtful, dubious gloom. ‘Hmmm. Are these pakted?’ The look on his face was that of a courtroom solicitor who already knew the answer to the question he asked. He was plainly a practitioner of the sport himself. He had a ponytail and bruises all up and down one shin, which made me reconsider the wisdom of purchas-


32 The American


ing a modern version of the vehicles he supposedly sold, although the thought of suggesting a sale wasn’t in his universe. My husband looked confused.


The clerk was asked to repeat himself, but a second try at conversation didn’t get us further in understand- ing. Suddenly I twigged, (Is there any American equivalent to that word?) because the funereal expression on the clerk’s face helped me translate. ‘No, they were not expected,’ I


helped. I am bwilliant! By now some colleagues had scented tragedy and were starting to gather round our mournful little scene. The three fit young men formed a circle of sorrow, gazing down at my sprawled out bike as if it were a dead puppy. By ‘fit’ I mean American Fit: athletic; as opposed to British Fit: hotties. Although one of them could well have qualified in either category. Ponytail sighed and began a well-


worn speech about how bike season was a poor time to request bike


repair, and his mates repeated each of his statements like backup singers adding some soul, shaking their heads as they repeated his eulogy. They were like Macbeth’s three weird sisters in male form, echoing after their leader: ‘THE WEATHER The Weather the weather…IF YOU’D BOOKED If You’d Booked if you’d booked…’ My husband said that we didn’t


expect immediate service, but that olive branch pushed Ponytail even deeper into depression. ‘It’s just that the sun has come


out now’, he grieved. ‘Everybody sees the sunshine, and they want to take their bikes out, but then they sees that they need a little work and they wants to bring ‘em in.’ Ah! Even Americans can under-


stand that! We once lived on the west coast of the US, so we knew what sunshine was. He was telling us that there was a DEMAND for his service! And not only was there a demand, but it was PREDICTABLE each year.


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