As I hopped on my bike yesterday to head towards home, I couldn’t understand why everyone was riding in such an insane fashion.
Now, riding a bike here in the beginning was a harrowing, white knuckle experience. I’m trying to come up with an analogy, so let’s say, picture the entire city of Montreal on a bike – drunk – and that’s kinda what Beijing feels like to me most of the time. People are constantly heading the wrong way, cutting you off, stopping in the dead center of the road, swerving into you, smashing into you from behind. Nothing at this point surprises me anymore and yet I’ve managed to find this strange zen feeling when I ride. Whereas I used to mutter “don’t die, don’t die,” during each ride, I now morph into this strange daze where I think of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.
But yesterday a storm was coming. If there’s another thing people hate here, it’s getting wet. Most people whipped out their ponchos. People pedalled the fastest I have ever seen. One woman in a slightly ridiculous pair of three inch red heels (trust me, heels were NOT made for cycling in) decided to open her umbrella, while riding her bike, while TALKING on her cell phone and smoking a cigarette. Mad skills.
I, on the other hand, the good rainy B.C. native, simply accepted my lot in life and prepared to get wet. I was also about 11 km away from home and realized there was no way I was going to make it even close.
And boy, did it rain. Huge claps of thunder, driving rain so hard I could hardly see. I was soaked in about 45 seconds and by the time I made it home, there were puddles about four inches deep across the courtyard.
I got in the elevator dripping water everywhere and there was one of my elderly women neighbours. She looked at me – horrified – and promptly went into a lecture about how I was going to get sick and die.
“Where is your poncho?” she said. “You need a poncho.”
I told her i didn’t have one and she made this face like I had said, “I don’t have pants.”
She then made me get off on her floor. I waited, somewhat unsure of what she was doing. She came back and thrust two things in my hand. One, some strange tea. And two, a purple poncho.
She then scolded me a bit more and let me go on my way.
And despite that fact that I now feel like a 5-year-old, it made me laugh pretty darn hard.
And now I have a poncho.