Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Bicycle Thieves

I successfully stole a bike once so, I thought I’d give it another shot. I never would’ve guessed however that stealing a bicycle from a thief would be more difficult than stealing from a policeman.

Yes you did hear me right, from a policeman. My mother also didn’t believe me until she received a phone call from the Police six months after I had told her the truth. Just a courtesy call,
“Good Morning, this is Sergeant Plodd calling from Northbridge Police, may I speak to Katejuliana please?”
“I’m sorry she’s living in Sydney now, may I be of assistance?”
“I’m just calling to check if Katherine has had no further trouble with her bicycle that was stolen.” He continued.
“Ah no, no trouble at all thank you officer.” Replied my astonished mother.

I’ll explain how I pulled it off so easily, excessive amounts of luck were on my side that day.

I finished work at the State Library at 5.30pm as I did every Saturday during my undergraduate years. I was off to the Brass Monkey Hotel to drink and play scrabble on the upstairs Chesterfields with my friends. Forecasting my drunkenness, I left my bicycle locked up outside the library. The following day I walked to work at the library finding my bike had been stolen. Why would anyone in their right mind steal this bike? It was the biggest pile of…….which astonishingly still went.  To an impoverished student however, it was an immensely valuable asset, especially as I was madly saving $5000 to participate in the Australian Youth Orchestra’s 1991 tour of the Americas; San Fransisco, Carnigie Hall, New York, Caracas and Rio de Janero. 

Infuriated I called the police to report the heinous crime. The policeman at the end of the phone diligently took the details; blue bike with gears and a green lock, reminding me for a third time that stolen bikes never found their rightful owners.

Fifteen minutes before the end of my shift the phone at my desk rang for the first time in my career at the library. 
"Hello?" I answered enquiringly. "Hello Miss Walpole, I’d like you to come down to the station as a bicycle fitting your bicycle’s description has just been handed in."

I don’t ever recall praying in my life, but if I had, it had just paid off. I made myself known on arrival keen to identify my bicycle. I heard a bike being wheeled from out the back, it went tick tick tick as the precisely tune mechanics heralded its arrival. My heart sank, precision was the last word to describe my bike. How will I cope without my bike? As I looked at the brand new blue 10 speed racer with a green lock, the policeman said, 
“Is this your bike?” I nearly fell backwards as I heard my mouth say, “Yep”. 
“Sign here please”, I signed and the theft was almost complete. The bike was way too big for me, I dread to think what the policeman thought as I fell from numerous attempted mounts. It was far from an ideal get away vehicle.

Riding on the success of my previous theft (pun intended), I felt confident in the face of my second, five years later at 3am on the Herrengracht in Amsterdam. I was on holiday from Paris with my fabulous friend Paul.

I had avoided the metro controllers for six months in Paris travelling ticketless. I felt the impending exhaustion of my luck and an alternate form of transport was necessary. I lived on the Place des Vosges in the Marais quarter of Paris.
A Marais is a marsh, evidently it was flat as far as I would want to travel (to the Louvre, the BHV, Monoprix and home) and a bicycle was the obvious choice.

I hadn’t thought of it until a junkie (AKA bike thief) who saw three of us Patrick, his friend Richard and myself, stumbling home on one bicycle under the influence of Amsterdam delights. The junkie asked if we wanted to buy another bicycle. As I was driving back to Paris the next day, I thought it a very wise investment. The junkie paraded the bike in question asking for 25 Guilders. Dam, I’d just spent my last 25 guilder note on a herbal souvenir. To stall, I said I liked the bike, but would prefer a model in green. I knew full well how desperate he was to sell and that it was not as he mentioned; a bike he bought for his girlfriend who dumped him before he had a chance to give it to her. He asked me to wait a minute, while he searched for a green one. He foolishly left the brown bike in my care to fetch the green one. This was my big chance.

“Paul get on!” I was off, Paul was not on and in fits of laughter, but I was still off. The seventeenth century engineer who dammed the Amstel and designed the canals did not have my get away plan in mind. I grew up in strict grid style urban planning and the circular pattern of the canals had me beat and lost. I had no idea where Paul, Richard or the bike thief were. It’s a little hard to flee if you aren’t aware that you are indeed going around in circles. I was desperate to find Richard or Paul and not to find the bike thief. As luck wasn’t on my side this thieving occasion, I found the thief first. 

“Oh hello, I was wondering where you got to.” I said attempting innocence. He was cross, I was scared and lost. With Dutch courage I said, 
“well come on, from one thief to another you must give me brownie points for trying.” Fortunately this amused him and I confessed I had spend my last 25 guilder note on a bag of herbs. Cutting his losses he agreed to barter the bike for the herbs. To satisfy his need to punish me, he explained that I was a very naughty girl and therefore I wasn’t allowed to have the green bike. I was soon after riding the Rue du Rivoli on my beautiful brown bike.

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