A guest-post from a veteran London dealer, selling and fixing bikes in the time of coronavirus.
The shelves are getting empty. Outside there is a queue of docile pedestrians waiting to see if the next van will bring any bicycles. It is promised to arrive “within hours”. Indoors, teams of perspiring mechanics spend as much of their time as possible battling a mountain of repairs and as little time as possible dealing with rambling pointless telephone calls, searching the internet for basic essentials, moving piles of rubbish around, and listening to people’s theories about their punctures. Meanwhile the pile of bikes waiting for currently unobtainable parts is darkening the room and blocking access to vital parts of the building.
There are experienced cyclists wanting their bikes completely restored, who become emotional with gratitude when you return their rejuvenated machine. The inexperienced want to spend a lot of time telling you that their bike will definitely not be expensive to repair because basically there’s nothing wrong with it. They tell you it was working fine until it suddenly went wrong. Or it’s hardly been used. They call their friend who’s an expert to ask them what to do. They suggest glue. They look at their phones. They ask you how much it would be if the shop down the road did it? They tell you its only for riding to work. Giving them information doesn’t seem to help, they’re waiting for you to tell them what they want to hear.
Luckily the power relationships have changed. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed? You can wait, or you can walk. This is the cost. Now please don’t mess up the job by antagonising your mechanic. Listen to what she says. Acquiesce gracefully. Its a learning process and you will emerge as a Better Human Being. Also your bike will work better.
In this brave new world having a skill that people depend on has turned you into a deal-maker, an agenda-setter. The servants are temporarily the masters while the masters are locked behind their laptops waiting for that delivery. We know it won’t last long, but one day we’ll look back and remember the moment it became clear who the truly vulnerable are.