I had my bike stolen at the start of the month. That’s a funny way to put it. ‘I had it stolen,’ almost as if I had arranged it with the thief, that he would take my bike and I’d never see it again. It’s a curious feeling to find your bike stolen. I suppose the general reaction might be ‘Fuck. Fucking fuck fuck fuckity fuck.’
You might kick the wall, curse your sore foot, damn the wall and think foul thoughts about the miserable prick that made off with your bike. Then limp towards Front Arch perfecting your aggrieved sour puss to file your complaint. A sympathetic but ultimately helpless security guard will join you in your grumblings, help you curse the immoral bastard that took your bike and then you’d go about your day progressing from apocalyptic fury to aggressive anger to intense annoyance and finally to just being mildly miffed.
I didn’t react like that. It was half ten on a Sunday morning. The sun was peaking out from behind some unconvincing clouds. Town was quiet, College was sleeping and I’d promised myself a quick ‘gym’ before work. I’d locked my bike in the sea of bicycles outside the sports centre the night before. Walking towards the gym, dodging the night’s puddles beneath the Dart-line Bridge I actually prepped myself to say ‘hello’ to my bike. What a mad fucking thing to do.
“The thief decided to leave my bike lock and helmet locked to the railings, almost as a perverted calling card. The lock was fine, un-tampered with but the straps of my helmet were sheared through. Absolutely, steal my bike, you might eke out some utility from the crime but to break my helmet and leave it there for me to discover is an exercise in pure badness. With that act the thief exemplified the idiom ‘adding insult to injury'”
Just like walking by a friend in the street, I planned out my customary nod, a cheeky wink and mouth a ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, ‘how’s the sprockets?’ ‘Fine day for a cycle, pity I’ve got work, eh?’ All this for a bike, nothing more than two wheels, a frame and some fancy bits. So you might imagine finding it missing from its spot beneath the bridge would come as a bit of a shock to me, someone who fully subscribed to such ludicrous personifying nonsense.
You should understand that my bike was my favorite thing I owned. Perhaps that doesn’t mean anything. Surely it’s absurd to invest so much emotion and feeling in something so insignificant as an inanimate product. I mean it’s only a thing. An object. A bike. Who could frankly give a shit? I suppose I do. I realise and fully appreciate that it’s a silly thing to care about but I would be fooling myself if I didn’t say I loved that bike. The bike had achieved a status above being more than a mere object. I had the bike for a little less than three years and in that time I must have covered at least five thousand kilometers happily propped up upon its saddle. People don’t spend that kind of time with anything without forming sort of bond with it. The bike had accompanied me on some of the happiest days of my life and, understandably, through association it evolved from simple thing to cherished possession. A mythic identity was cultivated whereby I equated the bike and spending time on it with being happy, free and being just generally optimistic.
The bike offered a sense of freedom, a means to entertain my half-baked ideas about how to spend a day. I’d often get mad notions such as, ‘I want to have lunch in Stephen’s Green today.’ This bizarre want would be acted upon and I would pack a ham roll into a bag and I would set off from Clane and cycle to Stephen’s Green. Eat my roll and cycle home. An eighty-kilometer round trip.
I spent a week surfing in Clare last August. The week before my departure I felt it would be appropriate for me to at least spy the Irish Sea before peering over the Atlantic for the week. That resulted in a one-hundred-and-twenty kilometer journey on the hottest day of last summer. Leaving my home at ten to eight in the morning, I didn’t return till half five that day. Apparently I risked going into cardiac arrest with that stunt.
The 21st of December 2012, widely prophecised as the end of the world. I spent it atop the Dublin Mountains hurtling down the mountain-bike tracks at Ticknock. If the world was going to end, well at least I was happy whilst it went about its apocalyptic business.
So you might appreciate that the bike was something more than just another thing I owned. It was never just a mode of transport. I didn’t look upon it as just another possession, a thing, an object, a bike. It was special and it occupied a certain role in my life. It gifted me an extra degree of independence. It was a means of expression because it allowed me to exercise my desire for adventures, which helped to define me as a person.
I realise these are all qualities that can be attributed to any bike but that bike is special because it was the first thing I owned that I really truly loved. It’s perhaps best summed up using the German term, gestalt. It was more than the sum of its parts. It had a mythological currency that I happily bought into.
How did I react then when I found it missing that Sunday morning? It might be fair to say I didn’t. Primed to greet my bike with a courteous nod I was surprised to find it missing. Not shocked. I remember thinking, ‘How curious. I wonder where it’s gone.’ Almost as if it had undone itself from its giant FUCK-OFF black lock, and gone for a leisurely morning pedal about campus.
I stared at the empty space along the railings where its sleek matte black frame had once occupied. I probably wasn’t able to fully grasp the reality of the situation for a minute or two. And then, ready to accept that my bike was gone, I turned about and proceeded to walk into the gym before heading to work.
The anger never came. This surprised me at first. I couldn’t muster any fury or hatred for the person who took my bike and I suppose it probably comes down to the fact that I understood why they took my bike. It was a thousand euro bike. It was incredibly well kept. It was slick, well made, attractive and a damn good bike. If I were to steal a bike, I would probably steal mine too. I commend them on their choice. Congrats. Bravo. No, I never got angry because my bike was stolen but that’s not to say I was a picture of calm that day. There were two elements to this episode that stoked the ire within me.
The thief decided to leave my bike lock and helmet locked to the railings, almost as a perverted calling card. The lock was fine, un-tampered with but the straps of my helmet were sheared through. Absolutely, steal my bike, you might eke out some utility from the crime but to break my helmet and leave it there for me to discover is an exercise in pure badness.
With that act the thief exemplified the idiom ‘adding insult to injury’ and that is intolerable. I imagine they thought to themselves as they cut through the strap ‘Fuck you, random stranger’ and they were right, fuck me, I am a random stranger. I don’t know the thief and I imagine they don’t know me. There was no motive for vandalizing my helmet other than badness and that made me angry. What made me angrier however was the almost universal acceptance by friends, family, security, Gardaí and I that this was just the way things went. What did I expect? If I rode a bike in town I was to assume automatically that it would be stolen at some stage. I was clearly being ostentatious and foolhardy to cycle such a nice bike and leave it in town.
What sort of prick was I? People consoled me with words of wisdom stemming from experience that went along the lines of, ‘Oh I had a bike stolen in town before. You know it’s just a part of living in Dublin. A learning experience, yanno. Sorry about the bike man.’
Frankly I think it’s ludicrous that we allow ourselves to equate blatant lawlessness with just another facet of city living. It appears we’re the assholes for wanting to keep our bikes. How foolish and naïve are we? This attitude requires a serious overhauling. Stealing is stealing and is not just another aspect of life that we blindly accept because it operates on some random lottery based notion whereby it’ll happen to you but you can never tell when. This ‘accepted-truth’ of urban living needs to be tackled and thrashed.
“I stared at the empty space along the railings where its sleek matte black frame had once occupied. I probably wasn’t able to fully grasp the reality of the situation for a minute or two. And then, ready to accept that my bike was gone, I turned about and proceeded to walk into the gym before heading to work. The anger never came. This surprised me at first. I couldn’t muster any fury or hatred for the person who took my bike…”
I’ve resolved myself to the fact that I’ll probably never see my bike again and that’s what makes me angry. Not that I won’t see it again, but that I accept I won’t see it again. That’s bollix and frankly we need to re-evaluate that perception very quickly. Possessions I deem to keep are not transient and if they get stolen I don’t think it’s too much to expect that something more than filing a report would be done in order to return it to me.
Perhaps my lament for a stolen bike is over the top and ridiculous but the message rings true that a general tolerance for crime is a worrisome prospect for any society and should be considered with some degree of serious thought. Such attitudes do not bode well for the development of a healthy and functioning community.
As citizens we are charged with living by the law of the land and when certain laws are allowed to slip, its consequences can be severe. Whilst human behavior may exist in the grey area, law operates on a black and white basis and that requires the strictest enforcement.