My Vespa is a true thing of beauty. Smooth, curvy, stable. All those things.
But, like many beautiful things, it comes with flaws. The footpegs for the passenger are placed in such a way that their toes gouge the driver’s calves when the foot is placed on the pavement. In the villages of Italy, this probably happens rarely, but when slowly carving through Asian MegaCity traffic it is painful.
Another flaw is the lack of an ability to manually kick start. Relying only on an electric start. And the electric start works effortlessly, until it doesn’t. And, when it doesn’t one is stuck. And of course, Murphy’s Law dictates, failure will occur at the worst possible time. Like high noon, in the center of an unshaded Bangkok bakery parking lot the other day.
Like many a beautiful thing, this caused the heart to race and the sweat to form and flow as I frantically googled things, like, “how to start a dead Vespa?” and “Vespa Service centers open on a holiday?”
Finding only failure in my phone, I glanced across the street and saw an orange vested man under an umbrella and I remembered that these are the heroes of the street.
Perched everywhere on the streets, the “Win” or “MotoCy” guys are a vital presence in this city. Mostly, they give rides over short distances, like to and from the train system or down to the store and back. But they can also do about anything you want. Get food, Deliver packages, hail a taxi, anything.
I figured that if anything, they’d know a bit about motorcycle maintenance, so I walked over and through the power of mime and improvisation, I was able to convey that my scooter was not functioning.
He walked back over with me and confirmed my findings. He looked for the kickstarter, and like me, he must have cursed the flaw. He called a colleague riding by. He, too, looked for the kickstarter and smiled and said something I imagine to be like, “all beautiful things have a flaw.” and rode off.
But, no matter, my heroic Win driver took quick charge. He flagged another driver down and ordered him to park his bike. He himself grabbed his helmet and bike. The new driver hopped on my bike. The hero rolled up behind him. He pointed to the bakery and said, “You go inside. Relax. Stay cool. We’ll be back.” And with that he shoved my bike via the foot pegs away and down the street. Keys and all.
Twenty minutes later, the new driver came back. He motioned me on his bike and we drove off. We came up to my bike, unscathed, 3 km later across Bangkok’s main artery. Which means, the two of them pushed my bike that far.
The hero was standing there, supervising a man who’d pulled my battery. He drew a hand across his neck. “Your batt dead!” He pointed at a shirtless senior citizen sitting on the side walk. “He replace! 30 dollars!”
Of course, I said yes. I paid the Motorcycle guys 6 bucks and the battery guy popped in a new battery and I was off in pit stop fashion, baguette under my, now sweaty arm.
There are countless stories of these driver’s being heroes every day. Often they are the first responders to accidents and crime scenes. They are the ones getting people to hospital. In a city with often gridlocked traffic, it is nice to have these guardians on the street corners.