Buying a motorbike in BaliJuly 25, 2009
I bought a motorbike today. Well, I’ve taken possession of it, but I can’t actually ride it yet, because … no wait, let me describe how the sociology of motorbike ownership works here first.
In Bali, the actual purchase itself is as easy as buying a T-shirt. But the lead up to the transaction is tricky. There is a whole gender/status thing swirling around that colours one’s choice of steed. For the last month I have been riding a rented Mio – one of the smaller automatic scooters in Bali. It’s small, somewhat underpowered and makes me feel like an elephant on a unicycle – but it’s practical, cheap to run and comparatively nimble. No one seems to care what you ride as a rental, but as soon as you mention that you are going to actually buy one, attitudes change.
Me: I’m going to buy a Mio.
Friend: For your pembantu?
Me: No, no – for me.
Friend: (pauses for a beat) Why do you want a girl’s bike?
Me: Er, umm, well it’s, you know, it’s cheap and easy to ride and er, umm …
Friend: Yeah right, it’s a girl’s bike …
So I think for a while, and decide I will not be intimidated by gender-profiling types who are obviously trying to rev me up. My money, right? My choice of bike, right? Off I go to the Yamaha dealer, where I see an array of bikes of varying degrees of coolness. Some of these look hot. A salesman coalesces out of thin air.
Me: I want to buy a bike.
Salesman: (gravitating towards a manually geared behemoth that surely would need a crane to pick it up if it fell over) This one is very …
Me: No, no, I want an automatic.
Salesman: For your pembantu?
Me: (cringing) Ah, well she might ride it occasionally …
Salesman: You mean it’s for you? Why do you want a girl’s bike … ?
I leave. Time for some introspeksi diri. So what’s another 2 million? I’ll get a real bike – a man’s bike. I need the extra size and power anyway, don’t I? I ride off to a different dealer, but more self-consciously now, because I’m on a rented Mio, which of course, is a girl’s bike …
Me (at the Honda dealer): I want to buy a bike …
Saleswoman: Certainly – now, this Tiger here is on specia …
Me: No, no, I want an automatic …
Saleswoman: Ahh, you want a girl’s bike?
Me: (with some asperity) No, it’s for me. I was going to get a Mio, but …
Saleswoman: For your pembantu?
Me: (mentally reciting a calming mantra) No. I want a bike for me. I want one that’s bigger than a Mio. And I want one that is automatic. Because. I. Can’t. Ride. A. Manual. Bike.
The mantra doesn’t seem to work, because I find myself gritting my teeth.
Saleswoman: (considers me for a moment, and obviously decides I’m gay) Ahh. This Vario would be perfect for you.
Me: ?? Perfect? It’s pink!
Saleswoman: Oh. I thought …
Me: I want that red one.
Saleswoman: But the red ones go faster …
Me: Very funny Kadek, but that’s actually the reason why I want a red one …
With the sociological preliminaries over and my position on the pecking order of bike riders now firmly established (apparently on the second-last rung …) we finally get to the transaction, which takes five minutes:
Me: I’ll take that one.
Saleswoman: You have KITAS?
Saleswoman: You pay now?
And it’s over. I have a brand-new bike! They delivered it within the hour. But of course I can’t ride it, because the registration plates will take two weeks to be processed, and I can’t go waving red rags at the Patroli by riding around on something with no plates and no registration papers. And the Blue Book or Black Book or whatever it is that proves my ownership takes three to six months to arrive …
So I go and brag to my friend anyway:
Me: Hey, I just bought a bike.
Friend: What did you get?
Me: A Vario.
Friend: (suspiciously) You didn’t get a pink one, did you?
Me: No, a red one.
Friend: Oh. Pity. You know the red ones always get stolen first? Didn’t the dealer warn you?
Me: (mentally replaying saleswoman’s comment “But the red ones always go faster …”) Ahh, well, sort of … I thought she meant … never mind.
Friend: But you still bought an automatic. Why did you buy a girl’s bike?
So that’s it. Despite the subtle bagging, I’m the proud owner of a new bike, and I don’t care what people say. I make my own choices and will remain completely unmoved by the implication that in two weeks (grrr) I will be riding a twist-and-go girl’s bike that just happens to be of a colour preferred by motorcycle thieves. I am untouched by such petty profiling; I do exactly what I want. Pah! to the naysayers!
But next week, I think I might learn to ride a manual bike. Hmm … maybe I’ll even upgrade to a tough, macho Tiger …
Posted in MOTORBIKE MADNESS | Tagged automatic, Bali, borborigmus, buying, expat, EXPAT LIFE, Honda, Indonesia, KITAS, maid, Mio, motorbike, pembantu, scooter, Tiger, twist-and-go, Vario, Vyt, Yamaha |