The Angry Grammarian

I Found My Stolen Bike!

Like you, I had my bike stolen in Philadelphia.

It’s bound to happen at some point. It’s a rite of passage. Doesn’t matter how diligent you are about locking it up—it’ll go missing some day. And you won’t think you’ll ever see it again.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be wrong.

When I awoke a few Monday mornings ago and saw my silver two-wheeler missing from my backyard, I almost didn’t call the police to report it. Would they even care? Everyone gets a bike stolen in Philadelphia.

When it didn’t turn up in a few days, I went ahead and got a replacement: my uncle’s hardcore recently retired Trek. It wasn’t the same, but I adapted. “I could make this my own,” I thought.

Then, this past Friday night, my girlfriend and I were walking around Old City, killing a little time before a movie at the Ritz. At the corner of Second and Market, she pointed to a bicycle chained to the stoplight.

“That looks kind of like your bike, doesn’t it?”

It was. It had grown a kickstand and a few new locks since I’d seen it last, but a couple telltale scrapes and bent-out-of-shape parts gave it away as most definitely mine.

We called the cops, and a friendly officer was sympathetic to our story, but was ultimately unable to do anything since I couldn’t prove the bike was mine. So after hanging out for an hour or so, we used our locks to doubly lock the bike to the stoplight, left a note indicating the bike was stolen and the cops were aware and went home for the night.

Saturday morning I returned with—thanks to the heroes at Breakaway Bikes—my serial-numbered sales receipt. Intriguingly, the characters at Second and Market at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning (the crazy guy who kept asking if we were being filmed via government satellites, the helpful Snow White Restaurant worker who provided the hacksaw) are much more interesting than the characters at Second and Market at 11 p.m. on a Friday night (see: Real World, season 15).

The hacksaw wouldn’t even scratch the U-lock, though Saturday’s officer told me not to give the saw to the crazy satellite guy. “The last thing I need is a crazy guy with a hacksaw,” she said.

After some brainstorming, we got bolt cutters—about 3 feet long and very conspicuous—from the nearby firehouse, and the officer left it to me to do the clipping with a hundred or so Saturday-morning onlookers. Those U-locks are good—I recommend not trying to break one unless you have a police officer watching.

My bike was finally free, but I suddenly felt guilty.

Chances are whoever locked my bike to that stoplight wasn’t the person who stole it. It had been improved upon (it was always missing the kickstand), and it just seems more likely that the thief sold it hot to a used bike shop, and then somebody bought it legitimately.

Besides, I’d gotten a replacement bike for free.

Ultimately, karma lost out to fate. Throwing the needle back into the haystack seemed too cruel a trick.

If someone got cheated out of their “new” used bike, my condolences. Stolen bikes happen every day.

How often do they come back home?

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