My bike was stolen. The last few days I’ve been deciding how to proceed with the Summer and work and life in general with my one mode of transport taken. I’ve decided not to kill anybody. I came to that conclusion–mostly–because I have no idea who the thief is, so my justifiably homicidal rage would likely bring me to disembowel a totally innocent person who I thought looked like a bike thief. I did almost tackle somebody on a bicycle, but theirs was silver, and mine was gray, and I probably would have hurt myself more in tackling them than they would have gotten hurt being tackled. Violence and unbridled rage aren’t going to bring my bike back. So I’m trying–and failing miserably–not to be mad. Instead, I’m imagining what the thief is like. Maybe if I give them some humanity, I won’t fantasize so much about slathering them in bacon grease and leaving them tied up in the woods for the bears.
I hope he took the bike because he really needed it. I hope he’s down on his luck, maybe homeless, barely scraping by, and I hope my bike was taken so he could get to work or the shelter a little easier. I hope he wasn’t drunk when he did it. I want this thief to have some redeemable qualities or situation in life that means he didn’t take my bike just because he wanted it and it was there.
Unfortunately, imagining the thief’s humanity only goes so far in keeping me from being angry. My attitude changes considerably if the thief didn’t take the bike because he needed it. If he was just bored and drunk, and it was dark and he knew he could get away with it, I am less forgiving and more imaginative. I can be understanding for only as long as people are actually worth understanding. And the reason I’m using “he” is because I’ve decided this thief is a man only because I have also pictured–in painful detail–kicking him between the legs with all the enthusiasm of a child and all the rage-fueled strength of an adult who has done only leg workouts every day for months.
Anyway, once a person strays out of the very small window of humanity I’ve come to consider worth respect, then my attitude toward them becomes much simpler: there is no reason for you to exist. If this thief took my bike because he wanted it, then what service is he providing to anyone other than himself, what benefit is he to his community, what use is he? This overwhelming sense of uselessness is something I’d love to communicate to him. Ideally, this would happen while he’s dangling upside-down from a traffic light, and I would be speaking to him calmly through a megaphone.
I sound like an unreasonable sociopath. I don’t care. It’s hard to communicate to anyone the value you’ve given an object when that object is relatively mundane and generally used by children to joust and adults to feel smug. But I liked that bike. I liked being able to get to work without paying for a bus pass. I liked riding it to campus in the morning because it felt like working out, but I had to do it or I’d be fired. I’ve never been so motivated to be fit in my life. I liked the weird other people I encountered who seemed to make bikes their lifestyle. I only ever spoke to them briefly at traffic lights, but the other bikers seemed nice enough, if a little windblown. I even liked the fantastic old woman who blazed by me while ringing a little bell and subsequently shattering my fragile ego–she has come to be known as Geraldine. I liked having that bike, and the value I assigned to it was based on the experiences and convenience it lent me, not the thing itself.
So it feels totally justified in wanting to shove the thief into a punching bag and drop him off at the world’s only anger management clinic that doubles as a gym for heavyweight boxers. I think I’m reasonable in hating this person right now, even though eventually this whole ordeal will just be another thing that happened when I was young. I hate him because of what he has denied me, but I hope he did it because he genuinely needed to.
Nobody would call me a particularly wealthy person. People in my financial situation are also the kind of people who say “well, at least I’m rich in friendship,” but I also try not to have too many friends. So, it’ll probably be a few months before I can afford a new bike. It’s infuriating to think that this may have been a random impulse by a passing drunk because it has consequences that will be maddening for months after they’ve probably abandoned my bike in a pile of their own refuse deep in the woods.
If I could say one thing to this awfully inconvenient person, it would be this. I’d say “hey, stop fellating that dead skunk and explain yourself,” because, more than anything, I want to understand why they did it because that’s the only way I’ll really know how to feel about all of this. Am I right in wanting to eviscerate him with a meat cleaver? Or should I feel a little sad to see my bike go but content that someone is using it in their time of need? I don’t know, but I’m very annoyed and wondering how I’ll get to work.