Old motorbikes and duct tape

A long time back when I had to park outdoors at a temporary street-side bike park in order to get to the waterfront for the new years eve fireworks in Saigon, my friend made the recommendation “Always try and park your bike beside a much nicer bike. If someone’s going to steal one, hopefully they’ll steal that one and not yours”. It was sensible sounding advice despite the statistical basis maybe not being sound, but this is a land of superstition and peculiar habits.

Today, Yi and I were out having breakfast and some old guy pulled up on a very worn out motorbike to deliver some bread to the cafe owner. After he walked inside I started chuckling and Yi turned to me and said “What ? What is it ?” I replied “Look at this guy’s bike. The seat is held together with duct tape, the headlights and indicators are both held on with duct tape. I bet even the engine is held on with duct tape”. She looked at it for a while and started laughing and then when she quietened down she said “You know, this guy is very rich”. I turned and said “Really ? You know him ?”.

“Oh yes”, she said. “I used to work near him in Benh Thanh market. He is one of the big bosses there. He has lots of money. He just rides this old motorbike because on this bike, the police will not even look at him because they think he has no money”. “And none will steal it, right ?” I added. She nodded. I mused “I bet he has a very nice bike at home that he doesn’t ride around at work, right ?”. She nodded her head again thoughtfully and said “Yes, I bet his wife has a beautiful bike but he just rides this one around work because it’s less to worry about”.

I appreciated the practicality of this guy riding around on a clapped out old 50cc Honda Cub from the 60’s, held together with duct tape simply so that he didn’t have to worry about police, thieves or idiots scratching his ride. Sometimes life isn’t all about showing off, even if you are important and have a lot of money. You can show off at home without parading it in front of the whole city. Such a contrast to the young, wealthy idiots who sometimes ride through my street late at night in Porches and Audis for no reason other than to feel superior and show off how rich they were. Modesty is a virtue I guess. I believe Buddha says as much.

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