Saturday, May 10, 2003

Hand-crank blogging.

Happy Birthday to my brother Jay — today is his Puerto Rican statehood birthday, that is, his 51st.

Modes of transit in Asia: a topic that could provide many blogs. But for now, since I’m on an automotive theme, I will stick to that, just for one more blog.

Been There, Done That readers, both of you, know that I spent some time in Mongolia in 1994. At that time, there weren’t very many cars on the streets of Ulaanbaatar; and I suspect the situation hasn’t changed much. No doubt Mongolians, like everyone else in the world, itch to own cars, and as a motorized individual myself I can hardly begrudge them their wheels. But such charm as the capital of Mongolia had — and it was thin gruel, since the city was largely built on a Soviet model — was because of the uncongested streets. So much so that I spotted livestock wandering around the streets of this city of about 750,000 people. On more than one occasion.

But there were a handful of cars. Unidentifiable Eastern bloc vehicles, the kind that were never meant to be anything besides a quota-filler, along with a few beat-up Japanese cars. At one point during my visit, I was at the main rail station in Ulaanbataar, one of the few places in town that seemed to have an adjacent parking lot. I happened to be standing in the parking lot, among the Trabis and whatever else they were, and a gentleman with a suitcase emerged from the station and went to one of the cars. He opened it up, put in his suitcase, and in a swift move, took out a hand crank and inserted it into the front of the car, just under the hood. A few cranks started the car, and off he went.

And how long has it been since hand cranks were used in the West? Since Reos and Stanley Steamers plied the roads? I bring this up not to mock this man, or Mongolians — you use what you have, and that’s what he had. I bring it up for its novelty. You never know what you’ll see, if you're paying attention, even in a parking lot.


Post a Comment

<< Home