Monkey Mail: The Silence of the Mechanics
I left the motor scooter at the workshop this morning to have the light switch replaced and the seat’s padding augmented, my backside being increasingly battered thanks to the paucity of foam in said seat. The switch was simply faulty.
The workshop is the typical open-fronted shop lined with motorcycle parts, accessories, calendars and, in this case, a fetching black-and-white framed photo of the first president, Sukarno, in his youth. He was a handsome chap but declined rather a lot as time with its dramatic events marched inexorably on.
The shop is staffed by two young men and one young woman, all of whom are marvelously mute, speaking only the minimum needed to convey messages. They exude a quiet (of course) but nevertheless sturdy confidence as they go diligently and methodically about their tasks. They make no concessions to customer service other than that required to put a vehicle back on the road, which they do very well and at low prices.
For example, when I went to collect the bike after office hours they were still working on it and, in a rapid discussion involving three sentences on their part, I was advised that they took the seat to the shop that repads seats, reupholstering not being within their skill set. They were advised by the specialist therein that the seat could not be repadded because the upholstery wasn’t of sufficient size to allow the insertion of thicker foam. Therefore if I wished to enjoy a more comfortable ride, I would have to replace the entire seat, which would be cheaper than repadding, anyway, even if said repadding could actually have been done without replacing the seat, which it couldn’t have. Understand?
I did. So please replace the entire seat.
Which one chap then set about doing while the other finished installing the switch. During this process, which lasted about 20 minutes, from conversation to completion, three sets of would-be customers arrived.
The first — a father, mother and a small child in between — climbed off their bike and stood patiently watching the two young men, who were steadfastly working on the tasks they had promised to carry out for me, completely ignoring the family. The young woman came out from the back of the shop and dropped a hammer in a bucket near the men and the family, smiling pleasantly to herself, observed the family in a disinterested fashion, and walked back inside. After about three minutes of equally silent observation the family remounted and motored away without so much as muttering a curse.
Next to arrive were two young men on a custom-modified motorcycle — an old bike that had been hacked to bits and rearranged somewhat — carrying an entire wheel. They were pushier than the family. The rider, a skinny youth wearing a pair of oversized Chelsea football club nylon pajamas, had his long neck sticking out of the collar. He craned his beaky little face beneath the face of the chap looking down diligently at the switch and directed his attention, with a few murmured words, toward the wheel, clutched in wiry hands by his accomplice, who was dressed in black jeans and T-shirt and sported a head with shaved sides and a kind of collapsed mohawk. The mechanic dismissed the inquiries with a swift glance at the wheel, into the hub of which the accomplice was pointing a bony finger, and two quiet words, which I couldn’t catch despite standing about only a meter and a half away. Abased, the two lads climbed back on their machine with their wheel and took off in a cloud of blue smoke and chattering engine.
A few minutes later two middle-aged men wearing batik shirts rolled on their motorbike onto the front apron of the shop. The chap on the back strode directly past the two mechanics who, of course, ignored him as he disappeared into the back room. A silent minute later he came out holding a couple of things that looked like parts and off the pair went, no words spoken nor glances exchanged with the mechanics.
It was like watching a silent movie.
Upon completion, one of the chaps gestured vaguely toward the switch and the seat. Why waste breath stating the obvious? The young woman, with her half-amused look, handed me the bill silently, watched silently as I counted out the cash and nodded silently as I handed it over to her.
I climbed silently onto the bike, ignored by all three, and rode off. It was comfortable and worked perfectly.
I rode, of course, in silence.