Scoot- (v.)- To ride a scooter or motorized bike (colloquial) 1) Each morning, the blonde foreigner was a sight to behold as she would scoot to work on her stunningly pink scooter.
As an English teacher (once one, always one!) I always told my students that when I earned my bachelor’s degree, with it I was conferred the right to add new words to the English language, provided I could assign them a part of speech and use them correctly in a sentence. I would like to invoke this right, not in the creation of an entirely new word, but to tweak the meaning of an existing word so that there is a more succinct way to describe my daily form of transportation to and from the US Consulate in Chengdu.
I scoot to work.
That’s right. I’m mobile in Chengdu! After several shopping trips to peruse the goods available, last weekend I finally broke down and made the purchase of a new scooter.(After nearly fourteen years of marriage, Thad is well-acquainted with my need to look, look again, walk away and then look one more time before actually making a purchase of anything over about $35, so he was prepared for this multi-weekend shopping excursion. Even a trip to somewhere as seemingly ordinary as The Container Store can become an outing of epic proportions.) With Thad’s much broader vocabulary and more deft bargaining skills, we were able to purchase a bright pink scooter (if Jem and the Holograms were a biker gang, this would be their scooter of choice) for just under $350USD. When you subtract the VAT refund we get for not having to pay local taxes on goods purchased in China, I ended up with fuchsia fabulousness on wheels for well under the three-hundred mark.
Luckily for me, a good friend was looking for a motorcycle class buddy last fall (here’s the story on that experience!) and I hopped at the chance to try something totally new, so I joined Erin in a weekend course on riding. While it isn’t necessary and my scooter tops out at about 45KPH, I have found the background to be a useful one now that I am on the wild streets of Chengdu. (Granted, I may be the only one on the streets with any formal riding background, but at least I know not to kick the dogs and to ride in full-defensive mode-always!)
I’ve now got a week under my belt as a scooter rider and I’ve learned some valuable lessons in that time. These include such tidbits of wisdom as:
*Everyone is out to maim/kill me. Whether it is a bus barreling down the side lane, a passenger exiting a taxi without looking or an overloaded bicycle in the computer district of town, no one is looking out for me other than me. I should always be ready to make a quick swerve to avoid a possible collision with the bike stopped short in front of me, the car merging into the bike lane because it doesn’t want to wait in the traffic jam or the taxi headed to the gas station for a refill and a rest.
*Calling people names in English is a healthy outlet for scooter-rage. They may not know what I am saying, but murmuring a few choice words under my breath makes me feel a bit better about the situation. Plus, I have found it is a good way to exercise my creativity! The more unique the epithet, the more justified I feel it is. Just today, as I headed to the consulate, a taxi came to a near complete stop in front of my lane so that he and his passenger could gawk at the white girl on the scooter. Not only did he create a bike jam of semi-epic proportions, but I had to come to a complete stop, with no way to maneuver around his vehicle. At this point, I may have grumbled something about taking a picture, as it would last longer, before blasting my little horn at him until he proceeded forward.
*When in Rome…Riding a scooter in China is a matter of joining the locals and doing as they do. This means if everyone else is crossing on a red light, it is best just to join the crowd and go with them, rather than being the lone bike in on the edge of the crosswalk. If the other bikers are riding up the bus lane because there is an old man hawking cherries in the middle of the lane you should be in, don’t try to weave around him just to follow the “law.” Join the bus lane and go a full 45KPH until the bike lane is available again. Local convention trumps established rules.
After a successful week of scooting to and from work for me, and a frustrating week of waiting for cabs in 90 degree weather with 80% humidity for Thad, I am happy to announce that we are now a 2-scooter family. Thad and I went back to the scooter lane, where he had the lovely opportunity to haggle, yet again, for a bike. Granted, it only took him one trip through the shops to decide which bike he liked the best, but, hey, we can’t all be as thorough (and picky!) as I am. His does not look like something that would fit right in on an episode of My Little Pony Meets the Care Bears, as mine does, but is rather a very manly navy blue with silver embellishments. We can now create double the ruckus as we scoot around Chengdu together, turning heads and causing a stir wherever we go.
And not to worry, a helmet has been ordered and in the mail. I would like to claim that it is a tame black or maybe even silver, but no, in keeping with the over-the-top color scheme I’ve got going, it is sparkly purple covered in pink and yellow daisies. Upon its arrival, I will officially be the most fashionable scooting laowai on First Ring Road! I figure if the locals are going to stare, I may as well give them something to see!
So, Mr. Noah Webster, please update your book of words to include “scoot,” a verb conveying the action one undertakes when riding a motorized bike. With that, it is official.
I scoot.You scoot. Thad scoots. We scoot.