In a follow-up to my recent post “Fifteen Bikes Went to the Fence. Twelve Came Out. Thieves Took the Rest,” this post tells of another woeful stolen bike tale.
It was 1999. Y2K brought together a cesspool of techie geeks, survivalists, religious extremists, end-of-the world fear mongers, and ill-informed politicians. Harry Potter was making nerds and magic cool; Cher was warble singing “Believe;” Family Guy and South Park were ruining the minds of our kids; Britney Spears made her debut as a dancing, singing catholic school girl; and there were tons of pretty significant world history-shaping events that I really didn’t pay much attention to (coloured me ashamed).
While all this stuff was happening, I was a student of literature and a slinger of booze and food (just to be clear, I was a waitress not an orangutan). It was summer and I was enjoying riding my recently purchased bike to the university in the morning, getting a coffee, smoking a menthol cigarette* or two, and heading off to class. I purchased my new bike with tips earned by dealing with the highs and lows of humanity in customer service form or maybe it was with student loan money that I’m still paying off a decade after I graduated. Either way, this bike was of particular pride for me. It was a “Giant” brand road bike in a gold colour with a fancy name like “Van Gogh Wheat.” It was an expensive buy for me at the time, but I knew I would get tons of use out of it, considering I didn’t have a car and the transit system in my city at that time was as effective as elderly folks pulling rickshaws. After class, I would hop on my bike and head to my waitressing job. I loved riding a bike. I felt strong, fit, free – an echo of that little girl riding her big girl bike for the first time so many years ago.
I remember the day like one remembers where they were when the second commercial airliner crashed into the World Trade Centre; when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident; when the King of Rock n’ Roll and the King of Pop succumbed to their addictions; when that madman, Mark David Chapman, shot and killed John Lennon in front of his New York city apartment. Okay, I’m dating myself a bit, but I remember these events clearly just as I remember the day my bike was stolen. I want to be clear that my event pales in comparison to those I’ve mentioned. I’m really trying to convey that losing that bike was devastating and thus it stuck with me all these years.
It was August 15th. It was hot day, but a thunderstorm was rolling in from the south as a wall of black clouds slowly absorbed the blues skies. I had parked my bike in the rack a mere girl’s throw away from the restaurant’s patio where I worked. I was in the middle of taking a customer’s order. “What would you recommend?” She asked. I worked at an Italian restaurant and most of the women who came in wanted to eat pasta with fatty cream sauce, but struggled with eating something very, very delicious and the guilt of doing so.
“Bake penne with chicken and sundried tomato cream sauce. It’s delicious and you will certainly have leftovers for a delicious lunch tomorrow,” I said.
She nodded, looked back at the menu, and mumbled to her friend about too many calories and trying to watch her weight. I took this opportunity check on my bike and consider whether I should bring it inside. I looked at the rack. It was full of bikes. I strained to see mine. I couldn’t. “What’s in the sauce?” Her voice a distant timbre. I walked from the table to the entrance to the patio still holding my order pad like I was using it. I moved slowly towards to the rack. Only a gaping hole remained where my bike had been. It was gone.
I came back to the table, tears threatening to spill from my eyes. “Sorry,” I croaked to the customers. “My bike has been stolen and what can I get you.” I blurted out.
They looked confused and sympathetic, yet hungry. They both ordered what I had recommended and I retreated to the bathroom for a cry, after putting in their order, of course. They tipped me very well and I walked home that night.
I wouldn’t buy my next bike until 2010.
*I had justified in my brain that this type of cigarette had less death-y related junk in them.