It’s noon. Krillz calls me up: “Hey, how common are those blue Rolfs that you had stolen? There’s this guy here on Varick that’s got one–OH SHIT, HE JUST GOT HIT BY A CAR!” Oof. “Is the wheel okay?”, I ask. Yeah. “Can you just…take it from him?” “No man…I mean, I guess I could, but shit, I just feel…kind of bad for the guy.” “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN YOU FEEL BAD FOR THE GUY? TACKLE THAT CLOWN!”
So I jump on my bike and head over to check the rumpus. When I see him, I feel bad for the guy too. He’s old, blind-drunk and crippled. He can’t walk too well. He’s got a boom box with this really frenetic jazz on blast. He’s got a pair of glasses on and they’re rimmed with this white crust, and he’s drooling a little bit. I tell him slowly and firmly that he’s got my wheel on his bicycle and that I’m going to take it back. He starts yelling that he paid CASH MONEY for the bike. It’s an old Marin mountain bike and he’s got my Rolf 9-speed road wheel on the back, with no brake, and the tire’s mostly out of air. I tell him that although I believe that he did pay cash money for the bike, one risk you take when buying stolen property is that you are going to run into the person it got stolen from and there’s a chance they’ll be bigger than you. He’s yelling and I don’t know what to do, so I call the cops. Terrible mistake. We wait on the corner. Forty-five minutes go by. No one shows. I call the cops again, they tell me they’re on their way. Sure. Well, dude wants to get out of the sun and back to Brooklyn, and what am I gonna do? A citizen’s arrest? Why did I involve the cops in the first place? He’s got possession of my shit; I should have just swiped it back. He starts rolling. I follow him. He narrowly avoids a gruesome death at every intersection we hit. He stops, out of breath, and gives me a Newport. I smoke it and I say thanks, but I tell him that I’m still going to get that wheel back. I’d asked Krillz to grab my laptop, which had pictures of my bike, with me on it, with the wheels in question, dated about a year earlier. He shows up with it right about the time we arrive at the base of the Manhattan bridge. I get in the guy’s way and he falls down, hard. I help him up and tell him he can either come to the precinct with me and sort it out, or I’m just going to take the wheel from him as soon as he gets on the bridge and he can limp home with a busted bike. He considers his options, decides that I’m not fucking around and says he’ll go to the precinct.
NYPD, YOU FUCKING SUCK.
I show up with my bicycle, my stolen wheel, my thief and a series of hi-res pictures that show the wheel on my bike. Slam-dunk, right? Umm…well, actually…”Sir, we have no way of knowing if this is your wheel. You know bikes, but we don’t know bikes. The only thing we could do is “voucher” it, which means we keep it and neither of you gets it until someone furnishes a receipt with a serial number.” Does this wheel even have a serial number? Shit. “So let me get this straight: last year I was locked up because some van driver who doesn’t even speak English pointed a finger at me in a snowstorm and said that I damaged his automobile. All I had was a bag of pretzels and a bottle of gin. All it took to get my ass thrown in jail, with the requisite string of court dates and a year’s probation, was him saying the grownup equivalent of “teacher, he hitted me!“. But somehow this doesn’t constitute enough evidence to get my fucking wheel back? I’ve already done all the work! What’s wrong with you people?” “Well, why didn’t you get a police report when it was stolen?” “Are you serious? You’re not really going to pretend that the NYPD cares about stolen bikes, are you? Dude, you guys don’t even care when people die, why should I expect you to give me and my two-wheeler the time of day?” “Okay, listen. I’m done with you. I don’t want to deal with this, and if we voucher this wheel, I can personally guarantee you that you will never get it back. It will sit in our storage room until the end of time. You have to sort it out between the two of you.” So the guy who’s riding around on my wheel is sobering up a little big (it’s been a few hours by this point) and he’s actually pretty jovial. He’s chainsmoking and cracking himself up and yelling “YEE! YEE!!” in front of the precinct, and everyone’s trying to avoid stepping on him. I kind of like the crazy old dude, and I feel bad because his bike is basically his walker. That’s how fucked up he is; I think he’s got something terribly wrong with his legs. Only a true hardline asshole would want to see this guy trying to limp home with his club foot on a hundred-degree day. So I make a few phone calls, including one to Jeff over at Continuum. I feel like an idiot, because he offers to help me out with the cops (something I hadn’t thought to ask earlier, but which made perfect sense: bike shop friends!) but I ask him if he’d be willing to sell me some piece-of-shit beater wheel to give the guy something to careen around on. He says no problem, get over here and we’ll handle it. And handle it he did, even throwing some spokes on this old wheel he dug up, truing it and installing it on the dude’s bike. I think he was thrilled to be getting a new wheel. Kept sayin YEE! So we sent him on his way, happy as a damn clam, and I have my wheel, and everyone’s more or less happy, but I’ll be a shade happier when that goddamn mouthbreathing shitstain of a white-shirt over at the 5th precinct gets shot in the line of duty.