The evening of Saturday, January 8, 2022, I was inside a big box store talking to a clerk about replacing my over four-year-old cell phone. I had parked Sophie, the Fairdale Weekender Archer, a bicycle who has been my trusty sidekick since I won her in a Bike Austin raffle in 2017, a mere 10 feet away in the small vestibule for shopping carts. Since I was so close and regularly looking right at her, I did not use my u-lock and cable lock — a fatal mistake I’ll never make again. At 6:30 pm, a brazen thief walked into the little lobby, stood there for 20 seconds, then walked out with my bicycle while I wasn’t looking. The next time I looked up, Sophie was gone, and with her, a piece of my soul.
Naturally, I was freaking out on the inside, although strangely remained mostly calm on the outside. I ran outside to see if I could see anything, but it was dark. The theft was over, but the drama was just beginning. The clerk at the front brought up the security video. It showed a thin, white, male taking the bike. The security camera is high up and did not appear to capture the culprit’s face. I immediately called the community information line, 3-1-1, who because the incident had just occurred, connected me with the Austin Police Department.
Since it was a Saturday, they claimed they were too busy to send an officer out. Many APD officers have been out with COVID-19 and they also routinely blame lack of patrols on force reductions the City Council made to realign staffing with community policing after the Minneapolis murder of George Floyd by a policeman (and of many other people of color around the country). To some extent it is true; some police functions were reassigned. For example, cops aren’t trained in mental health, so those calls go to a different team now. All the dispatcher would do is ask for a description of the bike to alert nearby patrol cars to “be on the lookout” and tell me to report it online, which I did.
In perhaps the only bright spot of the night, I told a guy who was trying to go in after the store had closed what happened. I asked for a ride home, which he kindly provided, being a cyclist himself. I filed my report and also updated the status on BikeIndex.com (which ironically I wrote about last June.) After a period of self-recrimination, I did my usual evening yoga, writing, and whatnot, probably some tee-vee to distract myself. Eventually I made it to bed, exhausted more from the emotions of grief — anger, denial. After all, Sophie and I had recently just passed riding 20,000 miles and over 800 days in a row together, (821, to be exact). I hope you’ll click on the above link and read that post — my last “interview” with Sophie.
What followed were some blurry days of frustration trying to get the police report to be completed, coercing the APD detective to do his job and to get the video from the store, take flyers to bike shops, search for the bike possibly being sold online, and keep living my life. I also really missed my beloved bike and at times felt (and occasionally still feel) horrible about it. Fortunately, I have a back-up bicycle which I’ve noted here before: Sonnie the GT Arette. (Thanks to whatever algorithm, the post that link goes to is one of the more popular ones.) She’s a great bike with more gears but at 32 pounds is heavier than Sophie and doesn’t fit me well. Also without clip-in pedals, skinny tires, a trigger shifter, or comfortable handlebar grips, I found myself only using the seven middle gears.
Days and then weeks passed. I still rode (and ride) every day, but without as much joy, speed, or disance, but with more effort and suffering. The emotional drain of this jerkhole (d-bag, asshat, shithead, psychopath, etc.) stealing my personal property along with the guilt about not locking it has been significant. Eventually, I (mostly) gave up hope that Sophie would come back to me, although I suppose there’s still a sliver of a chance she’ll turn up some way, some how. Meanwhile, Sonnie and I have become reacquainted, and I’ve been feeling grateful to have her. She was a gift from my former reflexologist; we did my first charity ride of 50 miles in the 2015 Hill Country Ride for AIDS together (pre-Strava). She’s turned out to be a lifesaver.
As I’ve moved through the stages of grief, I’ve (mostly) come to more of a state of acceptance. After all, it’s just a bicycle, and I did win her for free. Where things stand now is basically in limbo. After an angry call to the City Manager, the APD patrols have the from the video, which does show a guy’s face, albeit covered with a COVID mask. (Neither the store nor the police would release it to me, but I may do a Public Information Request and if I get one, post a photo of the perpetrator here at some point.)
One night, after returning to the scene of the crime on numerous occasions (thinking maybe the dumbass thief might do that, too), I talked to a policeman. He was parked right out front of the store. Where was he when I needed him?, I wondered. He said sometimes stolen stuff shows up months or years later. That was one reason I didn’t report this until now, seven weeks later. So, you never know. The shopping center has a lone security guard who I could never find because they’re undercover, and no outdoor cameras, just what the stores may have. Most don’t have any outdoor coverage (I checked). Ironically, had I parked and locked Sophie at the bike rack, there is a camera there. But I didn’t feel comfortable doing so, because it seems easy to steal a bike from that dark spot. Live and learn, I guess.
Another saving grace from this experience is that hopefully at least someone (even if it is the idiot burglar) is enjoying riding my bike. Also, it was insured. However, the deductible to get a new bike is $500, and that won’t cover it. That’s because a new 2022 Fairdale Weekender Archer costs almost $300 more than the value of when I got it, and I don’t have $1,119 or ever $500 laying around. Add to that the fact that I had made a number of upgrades to Sophie, including recent Gatorskin tire (~$80), almost a full drive train meaning cassette gears and cables (over $100), new brakes (~$75), the aforementioned handlebar grips and clip-in pedals (~$65).
All of the above also involved paying for labor at bike shops, which was worth easily $200 or likely more. Also stolen with the bike were some very good front and rear lights, a new portable pump, a water bottle, some spoke lights, a Garmin speed meter, a cable lock (more irony). I don’t have the exact amount but I estimate she was worth at least $1,700. Clearly, while Sophie is irreplaceable, getting a new bike (Fairdale or otherwise) will not be cheap. Especially with supply chain issues thanks to COVID-19. Meanwhile, though I’ve had the luxurious poverty of not working, I just finished one short-term paid gig. I’m trying to get a self-employment gig off the ground, which has a bit of a learning curve and its own variegated start-up costs.
So, Dear Reader, that is my tale of woe. “Universal sadness all around,” to quote a line from the seminal 1991 film Slacker (you read my excellent review — 31-years later — right?). And just how can you help? Well, I’m so glad you asked. I’ll quote from the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, about the titular white sports agent (Tom Cruise) and his one black client (Rod), played by Academy Award-winner actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., when he says:
“Show me the money!”
To which I’ll add a “”Please and thank you.” But… it’s not just about money. Have you enjoyed one, a few, or many of my many posts? Did you learn something about bicycling, books, or Buddhism? Like or at least be challenged by some of my thoughts on my memoir, movies, or my morning chocolate? Gain some inspiration to try a bit more, either on a bike or something else, despite maybe being like A Dude, a fathlete? (Fat + athlete.) Well, this blog has been a labor of love for over six years and 665 posts. To try to sum up my point, it’s that I think there’s been some value here, and now’s the time where I’m asking if you agree? If so, I encourage you to do what you can to help me not just get a new bike since Sophie was stolen, but to help cover some of the blood, sweat, and tears plus lots of love and time spent preparing this blog (as well as the costs of having and hosting the blog, which is about $115/year).
To sum up, here’s more from Rod and Jerry:
Rod Tidwell: Because it’s not just the money I deserve. It’s not just the “coin.” It’s the… – “the kwan.”
Jerry Maguire : That’s your word?
Rod Tidwell : Yeah, man, it means love, respect, community… and the dollars too. The package. The kwan.
So, please send me that kwan. Like they say on YouTube, be sure to smash that Donate button! And don’t forget to like, subscribe and share this post! Thanks for reading and chipping in if you can. It’ll go to my friend Saurabh, who’ll get it to me, A Dude Abikes. PayPal and major credit cards are accepted. (Recurring payments too, if you’re willing and able!) I’m sure Sophie would approve. I, and hopefully my next bike, would definitely greatly appreciate it. If not, that’s ok. Thanks for reading, and lock your bike!
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