Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Scooter Saga

As some of you may remember, I was thrilled last month when I passed my driver's test and became officially licensed to drive a scooter in Taiwan. Little did I know at the time that that was only the beginning of a month of traveling woes that I have come to think of as "The Scooter Saga."

Let's start at the beginning. One of my elementary schools, Dong Sing, isn't actually in Luodong. It's one town over on Dongshan township, so it's about a 20-25 minute drive from my apartment. In other words, if I wanted to get to work this year, I had to get a scooter. Not to mention that scootering is pretty much the only convenient way to get to my weekly Chinese class at Fo Guang University and to the English Village (both of which are on the far side of Yilan, a good 30 minutes away).

Shortly after I first met Siena, she went to a school meeting and, when she was telling everyone about the new waiguo laoshi (foreign teacher), she mentioned that I needed a scooter. It turns out that the vice president of one of the biggest scooter shop chains in Taiwan is also a high ranking member of the Dong Sing Elementary PTA. Upon hearing that I was going to have to buy a scooter, he offered to give me one for the year instead. For free! I've said it before and I'll say it again: Taiwan has some of the nicest people in the world.

I still have yet to meet my mysterious benefactor but, over the course of the last month, I have met the employees from two of his shops... quite a few times, actually. In fact, if my Chinese were better, we would probably have been on a first name basis by the time all was said and done.

The first time I went to the shop, they told me that the scooter hadn't arrived at the shop yet but that it would be ready in a few days so I should come back later. I went back later and they said that the scooter was ready, they just had to send some paperwork to Taipei to get the ownership transferred to me. I gave them my paperwork and they said to come back tomorrow. When I went back again, they told me the paperwork still wasn't ready so I should come back next week. After several weeks of this (and more visits than I care to think about), Siena finally figured out that the scooter had belonged to the vice president's daughter and that she had misplaced the ownership license. So, after the paperwork didn't go through the first time, they had to apply for a new ownership license so that they could transfer ownership to me.

In the meantime, Siena finally asked them if they could just lend me a scooter so that I had a way to get around while I waited. So here it is, borrowed scooter #1: the Behemoth.

It was huge and teal and way too heavy for me to move by myself if it ever fell over but it was 125 CCs and it drove really well... until I tried to ride it home from Yilan one night. That's when I found out that the headlight didn't work. Yeah. When people drive as crazily as they do here in Taiwan, them not being able to see you on the road at night is a problem. So, after taking my life in my hands a few times to get the places I had to go in the dark (Christine drove in front of me so that her headlight would make us both noticeable), it was back to the scooter shop for me.

And so we come to borrowed scooter #2: the Little Yellow Scooter that Couldn't

This scooter was a lot smaller and lighter, it had a working headlight, and it was a cute yellow color. But that's where its positive attributes end. This scooter was 50 CCs of pure failure.

My relationship with this cantankerous old scooter was brief
but quarrelsome. I'm pretty sure it was actively trying to kill me.

The little yellow scooter never wanted to start and, when I finally would get it running, it shook so badly that I was pretty sure parts were about to start falling off. To top it off, whenever I had to stop at a red light, it had a habit of just giving up on life and shutting off. Which brings us back to the problem of it refusing to turn on... when stuck I'm in the middle of the road... in heavy traffic. In other words, for a few very long days, it was bad news bears.

Then, as I was about to give up and just start walking to school, the paperwork finally went through (about three weeks after this all began).

Ladies and gentlemen (drumroll, please), I give you... MY SCOOTER!

But our tale doesn't end here.

Despite a rather promising beginning, I soon ran into problems with this scooter as well. It got me to school a few times (including once in the pouring rain) but this scooter was rather difficult to get started as well. Then came the day that I tried to leave for school and it wouldn't start at all. After some frantic phone calls, I finally managed to get a hold of someone who could come pick me up and take me to work. I was an hour late. It was not fun.

So, after school, it was back to the scooter shop for me. (Side note: If it weren't for my wonderful co-teacher Siena and all of her help, I would have given up on this whole scooter thing long before I got to this point). Thankfully, there weren't any major problems with my scooter. So the friendly mechanics (who I'm sure were totally sick of seeing me by this point) tweaked a few things and got it running again.

Now, my scooter and I have come to an agreement of sorts. As long as I have a little patience and I don't let anyone else try to start her (much like my cat back home, my scooter doesn't like other people), she runs just fine. I've decided to name her Amelia Jean after the new Jack's Mannequin song of the same title. It's a traveling song, so I figure it's appropriate.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. And I'm so glad that Amelia Jean is treating you well now :)