Friday, September 6, 2013

The Full and True Account of Thursday

It all started Wednesday night; Dr. Fledermaus and I were working late at Bat Jr's school (Back to School night) and we were exhausted when we left. "We'll just take the car to get the kids," we agreed, "and pick up the bikes in the morning." [SFX: Cue ominous music.]

Thursday morning was as hectic as mornings ever are with a three-year-old and a seven-year-old; I was even more confused than usual: "Get your shoes and go to the back door!" I was saying, when Dr. Fledermaus reminded me that we were going out the front door, and walking to school, picking up the bikes, and then carrying on as usual. [SFX: Cue even more ominous music.]

Arriving at school, what did we find? Dr. Fledermaus's bike, my bike trailer...and a heavy duty chain and cut mini-U-lock on the ground.

The only response possible was rational. I numbly went through the list. Call police, file a report. Tell everyone: facebook, twitter, the bike forums, the stolen bike database. I thanked God, and my 2011 self for having registered the bike with the Chicago Police Department. The world was on notice. By the time I'd walked halfway to work, a friend was meeting me with a loaner bike.

Lunchtime. Enough mooning about the crappy summer. Three dead pets and a stolen bike--it was time to take fate into my own hands.You make your own luck. (Hah. So I told myself.) "Everyone knows," my internal monologue went on, "that stolen bikes show up at Swap-O-Rama."

Swap-O-Rama Flea Market
The flea market. I don't know how many acres, but it's two and a half city blocks of stolen, grey-market, and otherwise dubiously capitalistic tools, stereo equipment, DVDs, socks, shampoo, dried beans, and, yes, bikes.... I walked the full grounds, singleminded in purpose: checking out every plausible bike..could it have been repainted in a morning? New decals put on? bar tape changed? Nothing. Kids bikes, BMX, road bikes, mountain bikes, single speeds. There was a yellow van I went by twice; it had two nice rides on the roof, but its open back doors were facing a concrete wall--could it be inside? A pickup truck pulled out, having closed up shop for the day, with at least fifteen close-packed bicycles in the back, held down (more or less) with clothesline. None looked like mine. I thought.

Eventually, I texted my wife to say, "Saw a bunch of stolen bikes, but not mine." I was taking a last mosey around, contemplating how many visits it would be worth making, but mostly looking for friends' recently stolen bikes, when I spied, past a pile of tools, toys, and electronics accessories,   a glint of silver and white in the back of a guy's dirty red van: There it was! I'd recognize that 1" head tube and silver brake lever from...well, 45 feet. I walked up and said, "That's my bike in your van. I'm going to need it back." He immediately started talking about "the guy who sold it to him" but I didn't listen. There was one thing I was there for, and that was in front of me. It was in my hands. I took it and got the hell out of there, never looked back.

When I got back to the car, I took a longer look. She'd been stripped of her pump, saddlebag, trailer hitch, SPD pedals, any reasonable dignity of handlebar angle, and one bottle cage, but she was mine again.