Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh, So Close

The man was sitting right in the middle of the sidewalk, his gear strewn all about him. I thought at first it was a "yardsale" but for the bicycle with its wheels in the air. With the Brooks saddle and Campagnolo Ergo shifters scraping around on the pavement. And the guy is not wearing shoes to match the pedals, and there is no helmet, and he's wearing jeans and a leather jacket on his 80-degree morning bike ride. I couldn't get by without leaving the pavement, and the whole scene looked a little suspicious, so I stopped.

Are you OK? Having some bike trouble? (nice bike)

ARRRrnnnghh. Mnaaaah. Piece o' shix.

Where did you get this bike? (or steal it)

Hrrmmn. Eh, brother, brother in, uh, Urbana Champaign. You know where that is?

Yes, it's a college town in Illinois. (liar)

Urbana Champaign, my brother...uh, he got it for me. There, over in Urbana Champaign. My brother.

What's the matter with the bike? (maybe I can get this bike from him and find its owner)

Aaah, Mnnnrrg. Crap.

I'll give you fifty dollars for that bike right now. (come on, you loser, I know your game)

He looks up at me like I just told him he won the lottery. And I can see the gears turning in his mind: Fifty bucks! Fifty bucks! All at once! I can't believe it.

Aaaah, OH, aaah, uuuh, no, I need this bike.

OK, I'll give you all the cash in my wallet for this bike. He looks like he might pass out with surprise. I pull out my wallet (Uh-oh, how much money DO I have?) and remove all the cash. I make a big show of this, with a dramatic sweep of my arm and a long ZZZZIP as I open my bike bag, and opening my wallet ALL the way and grabbing what I hope looks like a huge wad. And then airing it out in his face. Green Paper. He can smell it, I'm thinking. And I count out sixty-seven dollars. I hold it out to him, sixty-seven dollars in cash, it's the most he's seen all at once in who knows how long. This is his lucky day!

You will sell me this bike Right Now for sixty-seven dollars. (hurry up)


I hand him the money, grab the bike and get out of there. Ghost-ride it two blocks to my shop, then I call the police. Give them all the info they ask for, and they send an officer over for the report. He calls-in the serial number, and it's not reported stolen. (maybe I can keep it?)

Officer, how will I find the owner of this bicycle? (maybe I can keep it?)

I don't know, you bought yourself a bicycle, it's yours now. Good luck.

I can keep the bike?

The cop has bigger fish to fry, and he doesn't seem to have any idea what this bike is anyway, so I thank him and he leaves. Then I searched the internet for two days looking for some sort of post or list or registry or description or SOMETHING of this (presumably) stolen bicycle. No luck. (maybe I can keep it!)

Someone suggested that I call the manufacturer, to see if they can trace the serial number. I thought that was a good idea, so I started by calling the most local dealer, who keeps a list of customers and serial numbers. I gave them only the briefest descripton, preferring to wait for the rightful owner to fill in the details. Ten minutes later they called back with a close match, but not close enough. I turned them down and said to keep looking. (maybe I can keep the bike!)

A couple hours later they called back with another match, "The serial number is XXXXX." (aw, shoot)

We have a winner!

Riding home that night I paused at the spot where the bum was camped out, and I noticed some garbage on the grass. It was the cardboard hang-tag for a pack of sandpaper. The thief had purchased sandpaper at Walgreens and was busy defacing the bike when I got to him.

Sixty-seven dollars.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Shame you didn't get to keep it Independent makes nice frames. Thanks for doing the honorable thing!