In addition, our new church congregation/family has been eager to help us settle in, and when I mentioned we were looking for a bike to borrow or buy for our 9 year old, the call went out immediately. The result was the promise of 2 bikes from one of the teenage boys at church. It took several weeks to coordinate schedules and get the bikes, and we had been warned that they weren’t in very good shape, but we looked forward to the challenge.
One of the bikes was well crusted with bird droppings and had some issues; the other was a trick bike with a bad tire, barely working front brake and no back brake at all. We set to work. The first bike looked in better shape once carefully examined. We determined that it needed some work on the back wheel using tools we’d need to borrow from our friends who lent us their bikes. The first step, though, was to give it a good wash outside in the courtyard. We took it down and cleaned it up. Then, as it was still a bit wet, we chained it to a lamppost just outside our building for what I thought would be about an hour before Jon would be able to take it to our friends’ apartment to begin tinkering.
Then he was spontaneously drafted as producer on a video shoot on campus by one of the graduate students, so he was delayed a few hours. By the time he got back we were hungry, so we had some dinner. I then sent the kids down to get the bike and bring it up, thinking we wouldn’t make it over to get tools that day. They returned without the bike–it was nowhere to be seen.
A few months ago I saw a world map with each country labeled with something it was known for, and the label on Spain was “theft.” That was a disturbing prospect, but I put it out of my mind. That map came back to me as the loss of the bike settled in. Jon and I were headed out to practice with the Berklee choir, so we couldn’t stand around wringing our hands. By that I mean that I couldn’t. Jon doesn’t wring his hands. But I did begin trying to find ways to process the theft.
Was it possible that locking a bike in the courtyard was against apartment rules? Could some official person have taken it, and we could get it back? Wait, would they just have cut the lock? Or maybe I chained it someplace else? No, it had been right there. So then I had to work other angles: was there something I could do? I could text the building superintendent to ask him if it might have been taken by someone official–doubtless futile, but action beats inaction at times like these. I could console myself that the young man who lent them wasn’t actually expecting the bikes to be returned. I could remind myself that this is the sort of thing that money is designed to help with. I could be glad that if the bike was going to be stolen, at least it had been stolen before we’d poured a ton of time into repacking the bearings in the rear wheel hub. I could be glad that if we had to lose a bike to theft, much better the old, limping one than a more expensive bike lent us by our Berklee friends. I could tell myself that someone clearly needed the bike, and wish them joy. I could try repeating “easy come, easy go,” in either Spanish or English. And I could wait for time to pass, settling things down.
We’ve patched the tire on the trick bike, and worked on coaxing at least a little braking power out of the front brake. Mark has also developed a variety of moves and strategies for slowing down before he careens into obstacles. And we’ve found the Valencian equivalent of Craigslist, and can begin looking around for a bike we might buy. And of course, we bought a much stronger bike lock for when we venture out with one of the more valuable bikes. We’ll get out on the road yet.
What’s your life-time stolen bike tally? At this point, mine is 4, counting bikes belonging to me or my kids. And how do you process things like this?