And subsequently recovered.
Here's what happened. Are you ready?
(Sorry for the corny pun.)
Then let's begin.
My older son's school does a "Movie Night" to benefit the parents' association. Basically this involves a bunch of elementary school kids binging on junk food and then shouting at a screen in the auditorium for an hour and a half. If you've ever been to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" it's pretty much exactly like that.
So off we went.
We got a late start, and we rolled up to the school on the WorkCycles about 20 minutes after the movie began. The sun had been down for at least an hour now so it was dark outside. As I was about to lock my bike to a street sign I noticed that the lock I usually keep on the front rack was not there. Then I remembered that I had used it to lock my son's bike to our outdoor rack the last time we'd ridden together. So there I was with no lock, save for the WorkCycles's frame lock, which is basically one of these:
At this point I had three (3) options:
1) Go back home and get a lock, which would take a total of 20-30 minutes and take me over the highest natural point in the Bronx twice;
B) Go inside and ask someone if I could stow the bike somewhere;
III) Just set the frame lock and hope for the best.
Not only was Option 1 at odds with my inherent laziness, but by the time we got back we would have missed most of Movie Night, the highlight of my son's pre-Halloween social calendar. As for Option III, only an idiot would do that. After all, I've written four (4) books, and in at least two (2) of them I expound upon the importance of following proper locking protocol at all times--even when it seems like overkill. Clearly the most sagacious choice then would be to take Option B.
So naturally I went with Option III.
I knew even as I made the decision that it was, objectively speaking, a bad one. However, I was at that moment brimming over with good will. See, I'm quite fond of my son's school, and amidst this kind and nurturing environment I temporarily fell victim to the delusion that parking my bike in a half-assed fashion outside of it was a gesture of trust on my part. I had visions of emerging from the building in about an hour's time amidst a bunch of giddy children and contented parents, returning to my unmolested Dutch bicycle with its two kiddie seats, and basking in a sense of community.
Also, I reasoned, this isn't exactly Midtown, where the professional bike thieves ply their trade with power tools. Only an opportunist is going to steal a bike in this neighborhood, and they're clearly not going to bother dragging away a 50lb bicycle from in front of a school once they realize it won't roll.
Even so, I wasn't totally delusional, and so I hedged my bet somewhat by parking the bike in some shrubbery by the entrance where it would be somewhat hidden from view.*
*[WARNING: The use of hedge and shrub in this sentence in conjunction with earlier corn joke meets or exceeds society's maximum allowable awful punning quotient.]
It's worth noting at this point that my six year-old son was not even remotely as naive as I was. Indeed, as I stowed the bike in the hedges like a schmuck he expressed repeated concerns that somebody might steal it. Imperiously and condescendingly, I dismissed these concerns. "I think it'll be fine," I replied haughtily.
And in we went.
About an hour later we indeed emerged from the building amidst a bunch of giddy children and contented parents, except instead of returning to my unmolested Dutch bicycle I returned to an empty patch of dirt behind some shrubs. As is always the case in these sorts of situations, my first reaction was one of denial--someone must have moved it inside, I must have parked it somewhere else and forgot, etc.--though ultimately there was no getting around what had happened:
My bike just got stolen from Movie Night.
I turned to the head of the parents' association, who happened to be standing right there, and who I vaguely knew to be something of a bike person. "My bike was stolen," I informed him, and before I knew it he'd given me his own bicycle (which, because he's not an idiot, he'd parked inside the school) and sent me off in search of someone dragging a 50lb bicycle while he undertook his own search.
Off I rode into the night, attempting to put myself into the mind of the thief. (The one good thing about getting your bike stolen at a school event is that there are plenty of people to watch your kid while you chase the perpetrator.) Where would I go with my catch? The school was mostly surrounded by private houses, and the nearest civilization into which one could conceivably disappear was Yonkers less than a mile to the north, so that's the direction I headed. I rode up to and over the city line, then I came back, then I combed the neighborhood streets. I figured sooner or later I was bound to see someone hauling an unwieldy bicycle with its generator lights flashing.
Defeated, I returned to the school. I figured I'd get my son home, then hop in THE CAR THE BANK OWNS UNTIL I FINISH PAYING THEM BACK and resume the search. Maybe instead of dragging the bike the thief had hidden it somewhere nearby in order to return to it later. At the very least I could drive around all night playing "Love Hurts" by Nazareth over and over again while sobbing.
Fortunately, all this proved unnecessary, for a short while after I returned to the school so did the head of the parents' association--with my bicycle. The thief (or thieves), it would seem, had indeed abandoned the bicycle nearby. Two young teenagers he'd enlisted in the search had found it. Of course neither of us could be totally sure they weren't the ones who stole the bike in the first place, but they seemed earnest enough. And either way, I had my bike back, so I decided to believe that they were heroes and gave them a modest cash reward.
As for the bike, though I'd largely been made whole again, it was in a bit of a state. Clearly the perpetrator had made a caveman-like attempt to open the frame lock. The cylinder, while still operable, was sticky, as though they'd jammed something in there to wrench it open. The rear spoke guards, while recovered along with the bike, were no longer on it. They'd also clearly attempted to remove the rear kiddie seat as the thumb screws which old it to the frame were missing. Finally, both tires were deflated, and since the valve caps were still on we figured the thief must have punctured them as a final "fuck you" before giving up.
Still, I had my bike, and as my son and I walked home with it (I had to push it over the big hill I'd been too lazy to ride over just an hour or so before) we both marveled at the sort of person who would unleash such abuse on a bicycle with a baby seat on it. My son also reminded me over and over that he had told me not to leave it unlocked, and while I was tempted to reprimand him for his insolence I had no choice but to agree. I did lamely attempt to spin it into a lesson about the importance of staying alert, but it was clear to both of us that the only person who needed a lesson that night was me.
So always lock your bike.