On Stealing Bikes

The house is empty and so I should be picking away at the new novel. Grabbing every free minute. I’ve stepped back recently from a few obligations in the hope of carving out a little space. And I’ve made a mildly decent start. For the first time in years it feels as if there’s no stall imminent, no fall from the sky. I hope to have a draft by the end of the year.

But instead of doing that work I’m here tonight noting in purplish prose that this week some jerk stole my bike. I’d stashed it in the back of my car after a workout down in the Woolen Mill, at Focus Fitness. Spring was coming and it was warm. What’s the harm, I thought. But in the morning it was gone.

Normally I’m good about locking the car. It’s a reflex. But Willa and I went to buy donuts after dinner. We hopped in the old Volvo and drove the five minutes up to Coffee-Way. We even bought an extra one or two – monstrous, bloated concoctions like worms eating their own tails -  because we didn’t know who was hungry, or willing to risk the overload of sugar. I was distracted, is I guess what I’m saying.

I realise there’s an awful lot of privilege involved in us being able to embark on even that sort of minor excursion so casually, so randomly. I mean, listen to me: We hopped in the old Volvo… We even bought an extra one or two …

But this theft still hurts. It was an expensive bike and its replacement is going to mean plenty of other shit doesn’t happen in the coming weeks and months. That may include holidays, or a trip on my own to Toronto to see a show, a bottle now and again of good scotch. But the food in the fridge won’t run short, and we won’t have to go without clothes when the weather turns warm. Because we’re lucky. I’ve already been trying to decide what sort of bike to buy to replace the one that’s gone. Despite me venting casually here, the real preoccupation right now is What am I going to buy?, and not, Do I have to give up cycling altogether because we’re too damn broke for me to continue?

The same, I assume, is not true for the bastard who took the bike. I assume he did it (it was a he, right?)  to make ends of one sort or another meet. To feed his kids, or pay the hydro bill, or keep the same kids in shoes, or yeah, to feed a habit run riot, an addiction. Because no one (in Kingston, at least) is stealing bikes and risking jail time just so they can top up their RRSP contribution for the year, are they? And just a sec, hold on, one more possibility just occurred to me:  they’re not doing it so they can take up some serious cycling either. Can you imagine? In that scenario the asshole shows up on the trainer next to me at the gym and suddenly it’s much more Tarantino than it is Tour De France.

My point is that in the big picture I’m lucky. I’m not necessarily better than the thief, but I am probably more comfortable in my life.

And where that leaves me I just don’t know. I’m still angry, sure. I feel this guy invaded my space and took lousy advantage of a momentary lapse. That’s not how the world should work, or the neighbourhood, this wonderful community. He had no right. What if it had left me with no way to get to work (ignoring, for a second, that it was in my car)? Or if it had belonged to one of my kids and I couldn’t replace it? My family will do less this year. But truth is, maybe not that much less. We’ll suffer in mostly minor ways.

In short, I’d like to punch him. Stealing from your neighbours is messed up, asshole-ish behaviour. But there’s got to be some perspective here too. The answer is not to install cameras and start posting footage to Facebook (why is that footage always in black and white, by the way?). I don’t want to live that way. And I feel that strategy doesn’t usually catch thieves, it just strengthens the us and them divisions already so close to the surface in this fabulous but divided neighbourhood. It stokes anger and fear. It leads to suspicion of the people we see every day, and it closes us off from one another. 

A shithead ripped me off, that’s all. I should have checked that I’d locked the car instead of focusing on that goddamn donut. And if it’s the worst thing that happens to me this year I’ll be thrilled, because it’ll mean I can concentrate on more important things – my daughter in the Central Public production of Mary Poppins, is a fine example, or the fact that the U.K. is about to sever much of its connection to the European Union and fuck itself royally because of a poorly explained and misconceived vote. You see where I’m coming from: there are bigger fish.

 But enough, I’ve had my say. I’ve waxed long enough in a confused and bemused manner at this turn of events. I’ll stop now. 


It’s about a house cleaner, by the way. The novel is. It’s about a house cleaner and the shit she sees and the shit she has to put up with. Maybe, come to think of it, she looks through the window while scraping leftovers into a compost tub and sees someone opening up the back hatch of her employer’s Volvo before riding away on a snazzy two-wheeler. I don’t know whether she raises the alarm or puts her head down and goes about her work. That sounds alright, don’t you think? I can see that coming alive. I might be onto something. Some minor but telling scene.

There’s a realtor in there prominently too. In the book. The guy generating all the leftovers, maybe. Because write what you know. It’s going to be good, I think.