Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bike developments…

My red Schwinn. She has been with me for 9 years, in eight countries and as a mountain bike, a road bike, a track bike and as a single spead belarusian cruiser with an extra seat for my girl. You can't tell me this is not a speacial bike. I am sorry: You can't tell me this is not a speacial bike.
I never really got into the stolen bike story. I wanted to and even wrote a couple of thousand words about it but to tell the truth it was just too depressing to write about to the end. This block over the bike issue also probably had something to do with the downward spiral that comes along with having your wheels taken away; I am speaking here of the physical changes your body goes through when you stop riding. I think I went into the bike business originally simply because it was such a natural and healthy thing to do for people. Sales is a funky profession if you think about things too much and an item that allows for heart, legs, lungs, ecology, transportation and fun turned out to be my calling. But biking is an addiction that must followed or there are repercussions; withdrawal, depression, anger and a diminishment in overall health. Bike theft is not just a property crime, it is a physical assault.

But also I tend to think of my bike as being a little special. My red Schwinn. She has been with me for 9 years, in eight countries and as a mountain bike, a road bike, a track bike and as a single spead belarusian cruiser with an extra seat for my girl. You can't tell me this is not a speacial bike. I am sorry: You can't tell me this is not a speacial bike.

I have been basically without for about three weeks now. I am going to have to do something fast though. Maybe I will try and strike a deal with Egor. He has been wanting a new bike and maybe we can go halves or something like that. Or maybe we will get lucky and my ride will turn up.

I say this last thing because there has been a recent development. Two days ago I was at the Milk shop and a guy walked up to me and asked if I was "The American."

"Yes, that's me."

"You had your bike stolen?"

"Yes, this is true."

"Let me ask you," the guy said. He was in his early twenties, possibly even late teens. Clean shaven, short hair. I would say more a student than an alcoholic or a thug. "If I were to help you get your bike back, you would give me something for this, right?"

"Of course." I said.

"Well, I think I know who has it. I would talk to them and tell them that it is your bike and see if they want to give it back. You live in this house over there?"

"Yes, that's my house. Why don't I just go with you and maybe I can talk to the guy myself."

"No, I will go. If he agrees to give the bike back I will come and speak to you at your house."

"Perhaps I could go over and see if it really is my bike or not…"

"No. I will come by and we can talk…"

I shook his hand and went home. Most of the afternoon I thought about what I wanted to do about this. When Tanya came home I talked to her about it and we agreed to try and call the police and tell them about this interesting development. When we did though, we found that the cop with which we generally speak to about this case was not in his office. We spoke to another officer and he said that he would send over the message and that our cop would call us back. This has not actually happened yet and it has been two full days as I am writing these words.

The thing about it is that I really am pretty much the only "American" in town. I don't play games with this and I prefer it when people leave me be, but on the other hand, I was pretty sure that everybody knew me and that I rode that red American bike had to have been one of those "Oh, you know who he is" sort of things. In fact, after four years living in Pinsk, I was pretty much sure that my red Schwinn was probably the most unstealable bike in town. With the call for money though, things seem to be more falling into place. Not that I genuinely believe in this situation, it is just that this would be a logical step in the process of what to do with the most unstealable bike in Pinsk. On the other hand, knowing that people here are together as they are, that phone call I made to the cops might have had an influence already.

Are we talking corruption here? Yes we are.

I know I tend to go on and on about Poland and their misadventures and often play down that Belarus has essentially the same issues. Well, I think that this is an overstatement because Poland is really the poster child for under-the-table dealings as far as I am concerned. But of course there is corruption here. The president talks about it. Everybody knows about it. It is what it is. And having said this, I understand that I probably didn't need to call the cops but I am standing by my decision to do so anyway. I mean, I really do understand that to the cops and the population as a whole, a bike is almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. And I don't really think that I am over reacting even though I am who I am here and that the bike was special to me. But stealing it either for the drug money, as was my first thought, or stealing it to get a ransom from "The American" is ugly business either way. Probably, if they had just brought it back and said they had found it, I would have handed them $25 and said thank you. This is the sort of situation where if you lose your wallet, you never expect there to be any cash in it when you find it; only you hope that the driver's license and the credit cards are still there.

But so far nothing like this has happened and all I can say is that I hope that this game gets tiring for the city and I get that bike back pretty soon. I mean, you don't steal a man's bike! And this bike was really special to me. I have had it for a long, long time and I had the old girl built up just as she needed to be for transporting both me and my little girl around town. Obviously they know who I am. Obviously they know what is going on and that is what it has really been about since the first day.

Such is life in the former Soviet Union is what I say. Like Tatyana Menaker told me: you get what you pay for. But to me, really, I just want my bike back.

More soon…