It was a dark and stormy night. As I rode my creaking bicycle down the rough, rain-slicked pavement of the bike path, raindrops pelted my eyelids like tiny daggers, forcing my eyes and my mascara down towards the asphalt below me. The air was frigid, and my fingers were brittle with cold as they gripped the soaked, spongy material on my handlebars. My jeans were already a lost cause, as the puddle absorbed by my bike seat during the day seeped straight through their lining and started gathering in places as uncomfortable as they are unmentionable. My breath came in bursts of fog, its choppiness an unwelcome reminder of the cold that had been lingering in my lungs for the last week.
As I pulled up to the bike racks outside the on-campus office of The Daily Nexus, I was surprised to see how full they were - the shiny metal monstrosities that had been the bane of so many cold nights, when other people’s bikes blocked my way out of the racks - were crammed with colorful bicycles of all shapes and sizes. For six o’clock on a rainy night, there were quite a few people parking their rides by the UCEN. And finding a functional place to not only put, but lock, my own two-wheeler was proving difficult.
As I scanned the streetlight-bathed bike racks, my eyes settled on one spot that seemed to shine more than all the others. It was as though God himself had parted the pelting raindrops and focused the flickering light of the streetlamp right on the one rack where a single spot lay open for my own little blue bike. Relieved, I rolled it into the spot and began the process of finding my lock and figuring out how to make my frozen fingers function enough to open it, loop it around both bike and rack, and lock it again. Meanwhile, the seconds were ticking away; I had a quick meeting to make and a dinner to cook for my boyfriend. I figured leaving the unlocked bicycle unattended for five minutes while I dashed into the office, did what I had to do, and rushed back to the rack would be fine. After all, who would steal a bike in the pouring rain?
Apparently, someone would. Somewhere on-campus that night, there was a person, identity unknown, who was so diabolical, so despicable, or so desperate that they actually deigned to steal my broken-down bike. Whoever they are, I hope they really needed it. Also, I hope they fall off of it and seriously injure themselves. (I tend to waver on that point.) Either way, as I made the long, cold, wet walk home, one thing was certain: getting my bike stolen really sucked.
And the fun had just started. The big robbery happened on a Tuesday. Wednesday wasn’t so bad, as I have class in I.V. Theater and was able to just drive straight from work to the perfect parking spot outside the building. It was Thursday that killed me. Having an 8 a.m. class on the far side of campus - and a sick boyfriend who parked his car behind mine the night before and was still fast asleep when I got ready to head out in the morning - resulted in me taking a very early morning walk through the water-soaked, fog-shrouded, ice-cold streets of Isla Vista, and getting yelled at by my professor for being late as a result. Now I’m one tardy away from an absence in that class, and that puts me just a couple of potential absences away from having my grade drop an entire letter.
Meanwhile, my entire morning routine was thrown off by about ten minutes, meaning I spent the rest of the day a good ten to fifteen minutes behind in everything. Not such a huge deal, unless you consider that Thursday was the opening night of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and a day that I happened to have to work as a waitress at Natural Cafe for a mandatory two hours after I arrived. So, I was late to work, which made me too late to my 2 p.m. class, which left me without the half hour I had planned on having between work and class to do my hair, which put me behind in preparing for the opening night red carpet, which made me late to that as well.
When all was said and done, I had pissed off my professor, inconvenienced the other girls at work, missed important information in my afternoon class that my poor T.A. will have to tell me next week, and made myself and my photographer rush in the rain to get to the red carpet. All of a sudden, the theft of my bicycle was having repercussions for plenty of people besides myself - and that doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of replacing the thing. After a quick survey of several local bike shops, I came up with somewhere around $120 as the lowest price for replacing my ride, which stressed me out and caused a subsequent round of stress about the fact that my financial situation is such that I can’t even afford to spend a simple hundred or so bucks on a new bike. And, of course, my poor boyfriend had to deal with the drama that it all caused. So, all in all, the grand total of people put out by the theft comes in at something like ten unfortunate souls (other than myself) whose Thursdays were somehow impacted by the chain of events resulting from the removal of my bicycle from that rain-soaked rack by the UCEN.
I’m not saying all of this just for the sake of complaining (although venting in print always helps when there’s a situation that leaves me feeling as powerless as being the victim of a seemingly pointless theft does). But, more important than making myself feel better about what ranks as one of the suckiest situations of my college career, is getting across the real price of a purloined pair of wheels. Sure, I can probably find someone with an extra bike lying around, and trust me, it’s a major priority right now, but that doesn’t happen overnight. And, in the meantime, my lack of a bicycle managed to set in motion a chain of events that exacted costs from pretty much every person I encountered on Thursday. And while walking to class, or sucking up the exorbitant price of parking on campus were both still viable options, the fact of the matter is that I can’t afford to lose the extra fifteen minutes that walking requires - or the five bucks or more it would cost to park my car on-campus everyday.
When all is said and done, having your bicycle snatched right out from under your office is indeed a crummy situation. And, although I am totally at fault for not locking it like I should have, whoever stole it should also know that they caused quite a lot of chaos for the few days that followed their theft.
I am not the first person whose bike was stolen here at UCSB, and believe it or not, I know plenty of people who have purloined a pair of wheels for themselves during their time here. Of course, most decent people wouldn’t do that to another human being during a torrential downpour, but I digress. The point is that bike theft just isn’t something people tend to take too seriously here. In my experience, it tends to be greeted with a rather laissez-faire attitude by most - you need a bike, you take a bike, you have a bike stolen, you steal another bike. If it’s left unlocked, it’s fair game, and if the other person has to suffer because of it, then so be it. Well, if what I went through is any indication, bike theft is a much bigger deal than most people realize. But, if nothing else, at least sharing my sob story can help illuminate that fact for those people out there who may be considering committing their own big bike robbery next time they need an easy ride. And, in the meantime, I can only hope the person who took my bike has a very good reason for doing so. Or that they fall off in front of a big truck and suffer the karmic consequences of their actions. I’m still not entirely sure where I stand on that point.