Posted by: 1of10boyz | October 8, 2013

Mr. Fixit

Returned to China the other day. Had a small luggage problem on the return, I “overloaded” a little knock-off carry-on suitcase with about 65 pounds of chocolate chips. I also had a backpack that was being used as a camera case and managed to stuff two computers into the other spaces so I technically meet the requirements for only having two carry on pieces for boarding the flights in the US. So the backpack weighed close to 40 pounds and it fit just right on top of the roller bag. So the wheels and traveling gear on the bottom of the suitcase is carrying about 100 pounds total as I am rolling/pushing it through the airport.

That is some very important cargo.

That is some very important cargo.

I suspect that this little bag, when it is built by one of those really good luggage companies would easily handle the task being asked of it but the knock-off isn’t up to that level of stress but I have no other alternative. As I was pushing/dragging it through San Francisco International it bucked (yes just like a little pony) just a little and began to not roll very smoothly. I also heard a small pop sound so I know something had just “failed”. I was only two gates away from where I was going so I just keep right on going. I mean, what could I do, I am in the middle of the airport and my jet is going to depart in less than an hour.

I get to the gate, get past the ticketing counter and the flight attendant asks if I would like to check one of my carry-on pieces to my final destination, heck yes. I pass off the “wounded bag” and get it checked all the way to my final destination. Glad that I don’t have to lift that little bag into the overhead and back out, I will also not have to babysit it in the terminal on my 5 hour layover in Beijing. I gather it back up with the other bags that I have in Beijing so that I can go through customs and get it transferred to Qingdao. One of the things that escapes my mind at that moment is that my travel information probably only indicates that I have 3 checked bags and that one that is added in the jet bridge isn’t going to update for the complete itinerary, sadly I realize that about 6 hours too late. So I take the bags to the Air China transfer agent and get them all sent on their way to Qingdao, or so I think.

When I arrive in Qingdao, there is one bag missing, nope not the chocolate chips but one of the original bags. My guess is that the baggage handlers saw that I had 3 original bags associated with my travels and when they found 3 they quite looking for any more, so the 4th one got left behind. Well that of course is never fun, but it was also worrisome since it is also 70 pounds of food and computer equipment. This one actually contained a computer that a colleague purchased in the US and had shipped to my house to bring back with me. I am never comfortable with a bag with a new computer in it sitting around somewhere “curious hands” can “explore” its contents so I am not really excited that this bag is going to spend a little extra time in Beijing. Paper work for this kind of problem in the US is challenging in my opinion and is no fun in China either. We finally get through the process after I speak to our local Westinghouse Admin Assistant (what a darling, taking my call at 1045pm with the next day being a work day – I owe her dinner don’t you think) and she conveys my concerns about signing a form that says I am happy with the resolution PRIOR to having the bag returned. Not sure what it said in Chinese but the English version was pretty clear that I was letting them off the hook by signing the form.

I got the “lost bag” from one of at least 5 bus stations I have now found in this little town of Haiyang. This one looks like it is specifically for buses that go from here to the Airport, didn’t know we had that option before today. One day I am going to have to ask my local Chinese friends why there are so many different bus stations and how they actually know where they are and where you can go on them. A story for another time.

So I knew that the carry-on was damaged. I unpacked and realized the chocolate chips caused some significant damage to the suitcase. Two of the four wheels and the case started to split, cheap crappy knock-off suitcase anyway. The bad thing is that I think i can fix it, you know I think I can fix anything.

I am from the “farm” and farmers are known to fix what’s broken with what they have. I have “fixed” lots of things in my days, some stay fixed and others get sent to the garbage in lots of smaller pieces than they started. In China, I thought everyone would be big Do It Yourself people, but I have found that they take it to someone else to fix instead. I have found that it is not a bad solution but not nearly as much fun. As a kid we called the fix it yourself approach by a term that is now very much an unacceptable term. I have taken another version from the WWII time period and changed it to fit me; when the war was winding down and the Allies began to “acquire” Nazi materials that were abandoned they found that these ingenious German’s had been making it work and the Allies coined a term “Geri-rigged” which means that did what it took to make it work. Well it isn’t very creative, but I have begun to call my repairs that use “none original manufactured materials” by the term Jerry-rigged.

Over the years I have acquired a pretty good inventory of “materials” from the process of attempting to fix things and when they aren’t fixable, or I have broken them beyond repair, then i further disassemble into parts and components that might be useable at a later date and on a later project. You know if you can’t make it work then you should salvage any parts that could be reused and “recycled” in another application. Knowing that I can fix this piece of luggage creates a problem because all of my jerry-rigged supply stuff is in Wyoming not China. I know I have the EXACT thing I need to fix it there because I cleaned up a couple of kitchen and pantry drawers just before leaving and put the pieces into a sandwich bag to make them easier to find the next time I needed them. Didn’t think the next time I would need them that I would be 10,000 miles away.

Most of the jerry-rigged stuff comes from stuff I have broken or “killed” and disassembled to see if I could fix it. Those that are beyond repair ALWAYS yield parts for fixing something else, in China we have only killed a printer/scanner and once I figured out that it was a power supply board problem (yes it was LaDawna’s fault if you remember that story from our first few months in China) it was a cheap matter to have them replace a couple of components (about $5 USD in one of the little streets here in town) and it was working again. Sure I had to take it apart and put it back together again, but I can put it back together again so long as I haven’t had to break too many plastic parts. You know some products today just aren’t meant to be taken apart and reassembled without buying lots of plastic or a good supply of super glue.

So here I sit with my suit case nearly repaired and not having the last piece or two to finish the “repair”. So I am sure that I will be in trouble when LaDawna returns because I cannot put it away until it is repaired; and this house just isn’t big enough to have incomplete projects laying around waiting for repairs to be completed. So I have a week to find the pieces I need at the Chinese version of a flea market to finish the repair; how am I going to explain to them what it is I need? I think I need to take a picture.



  1. […] in a few days, complete the repair on my broken suitcase that I described in last week’s post and get the family pictures and frames hung back on the wall after I took them down and got all of […]

  2. My wife and I just returned from Japan. While scrambling up the stairs at the train station in Nagoya, the handle of one of her carry-ons snapped, sending the rest of the bag rolling down toward me. I managed to snare it and we made the train, but we had no idea how to re-attach the handle and ended up leaving it behind. We could have used your expertise, and your collection of spare parts.

    Sixty-five pounds of chocolate chips?

    • I have a colleague here in China that actually has the real “official” name brand luggage. It has the lifetime guarantee and he loves it. He has gotten a couple of bags replaced in the past several years because it broke or was damaged. I can’t see spending 5-8 times the knockoff price, if you can’t fix it you can certainly buy another new one several times and still be money ahead; but that is just me.

      There is little opportunity for “comfort food” in the land of rice and pork for my American stomach. Chocolate chip cookies are THE comfort food of choice for me. It is also one of my personal goals to share some US things with the “natives” and figured that Chocolate Chip Cookies was as good a thing to share as anything else.

      It takes one 12oz bag per recipe so when we calculated out 65 pounds of chocolate chips, it is only about 86 batches of cookies for an entire year. Survival for me is a batch exclusively every couple of weeks. That leaves barely more than 1 batch a week to share.

      A 12oz bag of Chips in the US may cost around $2 but here in China, when you can find them in Shanghai or Beijing (a huge endeavor in travel to get to either one for me), I would expect to pay the equivalent of $10 or more. $10 chocolate chips get horded not shared.

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