Tomorrow I’ve got the usual 5k to run at the East Coast, so to be prepared I went to pump up the tyres on my bike and check the lights worked. I bought a pair of cheap but very powerful bike lights in Sham Shui Po, home of Hong Kong’s most esoteric electrical goods, back in 2011, but unfortunately, after moving house twice, the battery charger has either vanished or gone into hiding in the bottom of a box somewhere.
I was convinced it had to be somewhere, so in between trying to balance my bank account and file my tax return, I ended up with my head stuck in my bike bag, growing ever more frustrated as my battery charger failed to reappear.
Finally I gave up, and instead got the battery out of the light and looked at the serial number on the side, then went hunting on the internet for a replacement. It’s a strange battery, not an A or an AA or a D cell or anything like that; I was looking for a 18650 UltraFire. Given the problems with lithium batteries catching fire, UltraFire isn’t that great a name for a battery. It might sound good to the guy in the factory in Guangdong, churning them out, but to a Western ear it’s as well marketed as selling gas boilers under the Leaky brand name, or delicious Toxic potato crisps.
Still, I haven’t charged these batteries in over three years and they’re still going strong: you can stuff an awful lot of electricity into an UltraFire battery, it turns out.
I found a $40 replacement on Amazon, but that was for the US. Then I tried searching for the battery number on ebay, the online tat bazaar par excellence, and that vomited up a wide range of battery chargers, which decreased in price as they went up in capability; $15 for a 2-battery charger, $10 for a 4-battery charger with four free batteries thrown in.
Then I found that if you typed in "cargador" (Spanish for "battery charger") they got even cheaper. It turns out there’s a cut price battery charger market in Hong Kong, devoted to selling to Spanish speakers. The Spanish chargers forego the free batteries, but it’s not like I need more batteries. So I tried to buy them via ebay, and had an hour long rage where ebay wouldn’t let me log in until I got an email from them that took twenty minutes to arrive, and then made me wait another twenty minutes for another email to confirm that.
Last night and tonight I’ve been battling with a series of online banking accounts with nightmarish password recovery procedures, so I’m more sensitive than ever to getting access to things and the hassle it presents.
Or perhaps I’m just stressed and shouldn’t be adding to that by finding more minor frustrations to add to my cognitive load. On the positive side, by the time I get back from Japan, I should be the proud owner of a Spanish language battery charger. And reliably bright bicycle lights.