Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last night, I was at McDonald's with Jordan. I left and headed back over the the coffee bar where I usually park my bike. Not there. I wasn't worried. I hadn't stayed at that coffee bar. But for some reason I didn't remember taking my bike with me when I moved. I walked back over to the place I had moved to. Not there either. Now I was starting to get a little worried. I walked back over to the first place, determined to find my bike. Not there. Definitely not there. I walked back one more time to the coffee bar I had moved to. Nothing. I didn't want to accept it. I have had this bicycle for more than two years, now. That's a record. I have been in China for four-and-a-half years. This is bicycle number 4. I guess I should not complain. One bike per year.

But why now? I racked my brain for reasons. The most likely is that I just bought a new lock. When I bought the lock I opted for the stronger of the two available. This may have been my mistake. When a new lock with special keys comes on the market, the lock is presented to the public at a higher price, because it is viewed as the latest invention to keep one's bicycle from being taken. But too often bicycle thieves somehow get a copy of the master key, and when this happens, the newer locks are actually easier to open than the poorer quality old ones (obviously).

Cursing corruption, I finally gave up and decided to go home. It was getting late, but I just couldn't resist a walk through the bicycle lot at the light rail station. Why do I do this to myself? Denial. I just didn't want to accept it. It shouldn't be quite that traumatic. Bicycles aren't that expensive. But it is a bit of trouble, because if you buy a new one you won't have it long, and it takes a little while to buy a good old one. I walked home slowly, thinking all sorts of terrible things about bicycle thieves. As I walked in the North Gate, I was struck by one last, desperate thought: What if. Just what if...what if I had actually ridden my bike to McDonald's and parked it there. It was after midnight, and I couldn't afford to spend the whole night chasing wild possibilities. But I knew that I would not rest as long as there was "hope." I took a cab to McDonald's, and there was my bicycle, waiting patiently. And chuckling (it obviously knows my condition well). Oh, wretched absent mindedness!

Funny how one little event like that can change the whole landscape. The company employee who sold the master key to underworld for a high price is off the hook (for now). The bicycle thief who was pining away in a dark, musty dungeon with no hope of ever seeing the light of day is breathing free air. And I, who wasted two hours of precious time, am feeling like I have gained something.

Actually, I have heard that the cops have shut down the big used bicycle lots. In a way this is unfortunate, because there certainly hundreds of abandoned bikes every year that have to be rounded up and disposed of, and there certainly shouldn't be anything wrong with selling them. But the problem with those lots is that they created a market for bicycle thieves to easily dispose of their take. So they could grab a whole bunch of bikes off the street without paying attention to what they were worth, because they had a place to take them and immediately get reimbursed for their trouble. Now they can no longer unload large numbers of bikes, so they just don't have the motivation to steal them. They will still steal bikes one at a time, but not without first assessing the resale value. Since my bike doesn't have much resale value, it has so far not fallen victim to the thieves.

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