I worked late last night, finally running for my train around 7:30 as the sun set into burning pink clouds. The moon shone low and ungodly enormous, and I was content. I missed my Intercity train, but fine, I could take the Sprinter, which would only take a bit longer with extra stops to the suburbs. I hopped on and sat down with my book. I was happy to finish my day and go home to a warm bowl of pumpkin soup.
When I arrived in my city, it was raining sideways. I struggled against the blowing wind toward the massive pile of bikes bunched pathetically into a quarter of the station’s front square. It’s the free stall area – a chaos of bikes that people don’t want stolen but don’t care enough to park in the paid stall. It’s also a partial graveyard of bikes long abandoned, and those of us commuting on a daily basis have to spend at least ten minutes each morning trying to find a tiny space in which to lodge our own bikes between the thousands of the rusty contraptions – spray painted bikes, ones with squeaky, bent wheels from toting an extra, full-grown human being on the back. Here in Holland, a bike is a form of transport, and the frugal Dutch will ride them until the wheels fall off. Then they’ll replace the wheels and ride it a few years more.
I recalled where I had parked my bike. I hadn’t found a proper place and was already running late that morning, so I resolved to lock it up in plain site (to itself): one wheel lock, and one giant padlock through the spokes and around the frame. It’s never a wise move to not lock it to something else, but I couldn’t be late. There was simply no grounded object in sight that I could lock it to. The ends of the stalls, the usual refuge for my bike, were already littered with piles of other bikes lying about the ground, one on top of the other. It was a point of gambling to leave it out in the open.
So upon my return last night, I searched the dark area in the dark for a good ten minutes (no light posts for cheapskates). My heart sunk ever deeper into the reality that I would never again see my ragged little form of transport, the one that had taken me home after tipsy evenings out; the one that had delivered me to so many of life’s appointments. I knew that my bike was now in the hands of some drug addict/salesman in need of quick cash. I walked up and down the isles hoping I’d just forgotten where I’d placed it. But I didn’t spot my blue seat cover. It was hopeless.
Another poor man walked up and down the isles with me, aimlessly searching in the unrealistic chance that his bike had sprouted a brain and found itself a more suitable place to await its owner. I saw him retrieve his phone and explain to someone that he would be late. We were two lost souls amongst the thousands of wheels, seats and handlebars that didn’t belong to us, arranging alternative transport in our minds as we acknowledged the fact that we were screwed.
I blogged some time ago about getting my bike stolen. I think that was my fourth one, but I’ve lost count.
To the person that stole my bike: you fucking nincompoop. I hope that the bad left break – the one I never had a chance to fix – sticks as you turn a corner and hurls you over the handlebars.