Saturday, April 29, 2006

Successful Shopping

Saturday, April 29, 2006 9:00:35 PM
Well, well. I just had a successful shopping Saturday. I think I understand why Russians will describe a shopping spree as a "successful" shopping excursion. They mean what they say. In the States we take the success of the shopping experience for granted, and complain when it isn't so. But in Russia, goods are still not universally available. And, they have a history of being less available than now. Most of the Russians I've discussed this with seem to regard the Soviet era availability as "so-so", or mediocre, rather than bad. The availability of goods under Glasnost and Perestroika was apparently far worse than previously. Then we have the Russian Federation, whose first years were apparently pretty rocky times for the populace. Things are mostly better now.
Some areas, like Shchuch'ye, still suffer from bad economic times. Others, like Moscow and Chumlyak, seem to be doing quite well. Chelyabinsk has many indicators that it also is doing reasonably well. Unfortunately, I'm not talking formal indicators, but rather seat-of-the-pants intuition kind of indicators: clean store fronts, people selling and doing business, that kind of thing.
So, what happened to give me a successful shopping Saturday? Let me digress slightly: I brought my mountain bike from the US when I returned from home leave last week. It is not a fancy mountain bike. It is rather a minimalist collection of usable old components on a decent mountain frame. No shocks, no disc brakes. Componentry was about two sales levels off the bottom of the tank. It is a good "working" bicycle. Tough and sturdy components that work reasonably well, just not lightning fast.
The bike got trashed on the way over. Not entirely, just some critical parts. It seems to me that someone deliberately set about to do damage to the bicycle on the way over. They broke a spoke, and destroyed the crankset. This was not a small effort. It left me checking out online catalogues for crankset prices. I didn't have the tools to remove this crankset with me, either, so I would need tools. One of the guys suggested a local bike shop by name. I asked a couple of the Russians at work, and it turns out that one of the people I know had some experience with bicycles and the Chelyabinsk bicycle stores.
With his help I felt pretty confident that we could get this fixed in Chelyabinsk. He had checked their online catalog, and they had cranksets equivalent to what I was looking at. And he felt sure they would have the tools to fix it, too.
I took the bus into town Saturday morning. Since the bus let me off closer to another one of the stores on my list of potentials, I stopped there. They weren't my prime target, but they were closer. They had nothing - no cranksets, no repair facilities, nothing. I headed towards my prime target shop, passing my #2 choice on the way, but I was a bit tired and just didn't feel like trying my second choice right then. I went ahead and caught a trolley. The end of the trolley line was just around the corner from where the shop was supposed to be. As I walked along the street looking for my #1 choice shop, I was a little nervous that I might not find it where I had been told it was. But I went a little farther, and my nervousness was relieved - the store existed! I walked in with my bike. Lots of bikes everywhere - a good sign! A clerk came over and I explained what I needed, with a bit of difficulty, until I got out the internet catalogue printout. Bingo, they had what I was looking for. Making a longer story short, they had a crankset, and a bottom bracket, and they had the tools to install them. They let me help, which I like to do, and which was a good thing, since I was the more experienced mechanic. In about an hour, plus a bit, I was on the street, and it cost me less than the crankset would have cost me ordering it online! I was impressed and pleased. So now I had my bike, and it worked again. I rode about town a bit, and ended up heading to the train station to take the train home.
On the way I stopped at a grocery store for some soap and a couple of things. I had brought my cell phones with me this day, thinking I might have a chance to step in one of the kiosks by Revolution Square. They have a lot of phones, and I thought they might have a charger for the Motorola. I passed up that opportunity, tho, as I didn't feel like dealing with my bicycle inside a store. But here I was, with my bike locked outside, at least as safe as being locked up on the streets of NYC. And what did I see next to the grocery, but a phone store. I was not in the store 30 seconds, when a sales clerk offered to help. I said yes, and in sign language indicated a charger for the Motorola. It took her all of 3 minutes to find one. Then the sign language again, this time for the headset for my Nokia. Another bingo. It took me longer to pay for these items than it did for her to find them!
I will admit, I forgot to get my watch battery, but you've got to admit, that's pretty small potatoes. So, A Successful Shopping Trip!

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