Sometimes Things Don't Go as Planned

Brian Wed, 2017-03-22 18:40
Foiled! The PTB obviously didn't want me to succeed, so they destroyed the road!

Sometimes things just don't turn out the way we'd planned.

March 21, 2017, mission: Start out early morning from Cà Mau, Viet Nam, and take a leisurely drive 110kms to Đất Mũi, at the foot of QL (Highway) 1, the southernmost point in Viet Nam. "Check in" on FB, get bragging rights, presumably, as the only one of my FBFs to stand in a place in Viet Nam where everyone else in that country was to the north. Return by early afternoon, see a couple of Cà Mau sights.

Things went well at first. Then, about 20kms from Đất Mũi, my motorcycle threw its chain. Fortunately, one of the benefits of motorcycling on a cheap Asian bike in SE Asia is: wherever you are when something goes wrong, you're usually not far from a motorcycle mechanic. So I walked up the road, came to a house with a bunch of people in it, got out my phone and Google Translate, and asked if they knew anyone who could fix my bike's chain. A gentleman of the house raised his hand, and said, "I can!" (I think.)

So we rode on his bike the 100 metres or so to my bike, and he fooled around with the chain enough so that we could move the bike. I rolled it back to his house, where family members had brought tools out, and he put the chain back on the bike and tightened it. Then, with quite a few family members present to witness it, he spoke a few paragraphs in Vietnamese which I understood not at all, but, given that he poked a few times at the chain, wiggled it, and pointed back in the direction I'd come, I took to mean he thought I'd better get this bike back to a proper repair shop in town, and get the chain adjusted.

So I headed back toward Rạch Gốc, and stopped at the first place with a "sửa xe" (repair vehicles) sign. (On the way, I was thinking, "That chain sounds a lot better than it did before!") There, the head guy took a look at the chain, and said it looked "OK." (No translation necessary.)

So, on to Đất Mũi! About halfway there, though, I noticed I no longer had a rear brake. "That's weird," I thought, and decided I'd stop at the next "sửa xe" I saw.

THEN, about 2kms from Đất Mũi, I was stopped cold by that part of QL1 being entirely under construction, and pretty impassable! (They do this in Asia: While they're fixing the road, you can't use it. Or you can use it, but you have to drive through mud and machinery.) So I headed into whatever town I'd been stopped at. I stopped at the only "sửa xe" place I was able to find, but there was a wedding going on in town, and the guys seemed to be heading there, with chickens! When I asked if they would "sửa xe," they said something I didn't understand, but I got the message they had better things to do, so I left.

Finding no other "sửa xe" place in town, I headed back to QL1, and "checked in" in Facebook. Facebook told me I was in Đất Mũi, but what do they know?

I found then what was causing the brake problem: the rod that went from the brake lever to the brake had come loose, and was dragging on the ground. So, having failed in my quest, I headed back up QL1 in search of repair.

I turned into the first "sửa xe" shack I came to. The only person there was a 30ish gal in a hammock, who seemed quite pleased to see me. It was soon apparent she was not the mechanic, and, given the poking and pinching, didn't seem too interested in my motorcycle.

But before long a quite tall, quite handsome guy walked from the little shop across the street, and he was clearly the mechanic. At first I took him to be her husband, but she continued to flirt outrageously, so maybe he was her brother. He took a look at the rod, and hopped on his moto and drove off. I presumed he was going somewhere to get a part.

The 30ish gal never did quite seem to understand that I didn't speak Vietnamese. She said, "chứ đợi sửa xe." When I didn't understand, like an English speaker frustrated with the natives, she said it louder. And louder. Finally she took my phone, found a messaging app, and wrote it down. I took the phone back, and put it into Google Translate, and found that she was telling me "Wait for the repairs." That wasn't exactly news, but—bonus!—I learned a new Vietnamese expression, "chứ đợi," which I will now never forget. (Maybe somewhere one of my messaging contacts is wondering, "WTF?")

While waiting for mechanic guy to get back, another gentleman arrived, older than the gal, but since he also arrived from the shop across the street, I took him to be family. He began speaking to me in Vietnamese, which, of course, I didn't understand. What I did understand, though, was the way he was looking at me. Gay men have looked at me like that before, so I began to suspect he had the same aim as the gal. Then, when he grabbed me by the dick, it cemented my suspicions. A Vietnamese Trump! But without the money or fame. (Note: It's always possible, I suppose, that there's some Vietnamese heterosexual dick-grabbing custom I don't know about, but I doubt it.)

Mechanic guy comes back, but doesn't have any new part. He begins to put the old rod back on the bike, which I thought a low percentage move. Then, when he began futzing with an old piece of wire, trying to tie everything together, I thought, "Maybe I'm not a mechanic, but I don't think that'll last long."

Meanwhile an older gal arrives from across the street with a plate of food. Another older gal brings over 12 beers and a pitcher of ice. It's party time! By this time, I'm beginning to get thoroughly embarrassed, because I know I'm going to have to turn down some amazing hospitality. "Xin lỗi, xin lỗi. (Excuse me, sorry.) Moto! (Driving motions.) I determined that mechanic guy had finished with the brake, paid him (though he initially didn't want to accept any money), and took my leave.

Sure enough, after testing the rear brake a couple times, it was gone again. So I drove to the first "sửa xe" shop I'd been to that day, the one for the chain. Mechanic takes one look at it, drives off. When he comes back, he's got a new part! A shiny new rod that looked just like the old one, so I knew we were going to be back in business soon. And fifteen minutes later, we were.

By the time I got back to Cà Mau, the day was done—no time for further sight-seeing.

On the other hand, I thought to myself, if I'd actually gone straight to Đất Mũi, checked in with Facebook, and driven back to Cà Mau, it likely would have been a much less interesting day.


The pretty little town where my quest for FB supremacy ended. May have been Đất Mũi, for all I know.