East meets West on Honorable Transport
Asian Take on Canadian dogfood astride a German Machine
It was not a particularly large load. Not like the 160 lbs of pumpkins I once balanced under a cargo net on the back of my paltry 650cc motorcycle. No, it was just 25 kg of dogfood and some paper towels. I had one more grocery stop at the Asian Apple Market to fill the panniers with eggs, tortillas, fresh fish and cabbage. I was hustling ahead of the black clouds closing on the mountain we call home, thus, I slid the bike into an illegal spot behind the dumpster by the market’s back door. That is where I met him.
I need to pause and speak to one of the small cultural chasms we navigate in the Vancouver area. I don’t speak any Mandarin or Cantonese and for a lot of people those are their first language. Although for driver’s licenses and street signs some English literacy is essential, such are the enclaves of pure culture here that many Farsi, Urdu, Cantonese, Italian, and Hindi communities persist. Communication challenges exist too and require a lot of gestures and simple back and forth. I like it actually, but maybe not when I am in a hurry.
The Apple Market is our favorite partly because of the open air, high produce turnover, odd (to us) fruit and fish selections, but also because the older Chinese ladies at the till are all business in the manner of Jerry Seinfield’s Soup Nazi. They boss us North Americans around with a no-nonsense directness that reminds us we are visitors on their market turf. When the subtle niceties of English are stripped away they just come across as robotically matter of fact but without malice. They can flat move a line too!
Back at the bike behind the dumpster sat the aproned, partially toothed man who stocks the tables of dragon fruit, pomellos, BC apples, and organic carrots. The first drops of rain were spitting down. He was smoking a cigarette and sitting on a waxed fruit box. He was staring at my motorcycle load and when he saw my helmet and jacket approaching, he stood and clapped loudly, pointed and said “Very good!. Then began the hand-waving and back and forth. I [think I] learned that transporting loads by motorcycle is the honorable way of getting around. He could carry 2 children two sacks of potatoes and a trussed pig on his 200 cc motorcycle back home (wherever that was/is).
Now it was raining and he unfolded a waxed cardboard fruit box, still wanting to talk through his 15 minute break. I was slowly getting wet and I worried my paper towels would start doing their work but I didn’t want to leave just yet either. The motorcycle had built a rather rare bridge and for a moment we were two bikers from opposite sides of the world using our machines for a shared and honored task.
The end of his cigarette signaled his return to work and he re-tied his green apron and lifted a carton of tangerines while I tottered off toward home. I love these surprise moments of moto-brother/sisterhood that blossom at rest areas, campgrounds, mountain tops and, apparently, at fruit stands.