Fretting about my fiets
No, not last Saturday. Instead, I spent a lot of time looking out of my window. There’s a lot to see out there, not just on a Saturday night. But it’s not something I usually do (read the above implication) unless it’s to see if the ‘Big Banana Shop’ (a rather dodgy name for a perfectly normal delicatessen that sells nothing more unusual than hash lollies) is still open.
I was checking to see if my bike was still where I’d left it.
After cycling home that afternoon, I’d parked it outside my front door, locked its wheel lock and gone upstairs. Perched on its bikestand thingy, out there in the busy street, it looked very vulnerable. Tethering it to something would have made it look far more secure. ‘I really should have bought a chain lock for it,’ said the voice in my head. I’d bought one for my son’s bike, but not one for mine.
As the evening wore on, the number of bikes parked around it dwindled until it stood on its own. Could it look more vulnerable? Yes, it could! I began checking on it every twenty minutes or so. Each time I looked, it was still there. My constant checking made me feel a bit foolish. And then, just after ten, it wasn’t there! My heart filled with panic. ‘I knew it! I knew it!’ shouted the voices in my head. My brain flooded with recriminations, all of them directed at me.
It’s estimated that there are 600 000 bikes in this city of 750 000 people. That’s a fuck of a lot of bikes! Yet still they get stolen. Which explains why you can buy a bike that retails for €150 on street corners for €30. A very tempting discount, I’d say. ‘Don’t do it,’ says every Amsterdammer. ‘It’s bad karma’.
Buying a stolen bike is bad karma? Does anyone actually believe that? Does anyone actually believe in karma, bad or good? Not I, Mister Super Rational Me. No, as tempting as it may have been, I didn’t buy a stolen one. Buying one from a bike shop seemed to be the easiest option. And being easy, that suited me just fine even if it meant paying much more for it. So much for counting my cents and the euros looking after themselves. This time next year, I'll be a millionaire? I don't think so!
Anyway, I rushed downstairs to see. See what, I’m not sure. The thief nonchalantly puffing on a fag as he prepared to mount? Fingerprints left on my door as he supported himself while perpetuating the evil deed? Other incriminating evidence that would lead to his apprehension and the swift return of my bike? I looked towards the canal. Nothing - no sign of it. I looked in the opposite direction. A bike, an omafiets like mine, was parked about five metres from my front door. It was mine! Why the fuck would someone want to move my bike? I moved it back to its previous position and went upstairs again.
My vigil began again.
In between looking out the window every twenty minutes, my ears did their best to pick out bicycle-stealing sounds from the noise of the revellers outside. Roman Polanski’s ‘The Pianist’ was in the DVD player; not the most light-hearted film I’ve seen for a while. I don’t mean any disrespect and I would never presume to suggest that my concern for my bike even remotely approximated the fear of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, but, well, you know...
That after-supper joint had been rather strong.
The more the film engrossed me, the less vigilant I became. By the time it had finished, I’d probably not looked out of the window for over an hour. It wasn’t there again! Fuck, fuck, fuck! The panic returned; a short-lived panic this time. Someone had moved it again. Could someone be trying to scare me deliberately?
Calm down, Alan, it’s just a bike.
My son’s bike was in the hallway so it didn’t need to be chained to anything - I took his chain and chained mine to the railings on the canal. Why hadn’t I done that right from the beginning?