On this week’s call of the wild, many hours after thieves ripped off a man’s bright yellow bicycle, I learned some details about what I called home for more than a week. The conversation started with a click on a song I play when I bike in Toronto. “I’m on my way,” go my favorite lyrics. “I’m happy.”
I also used my homemade satchel to hold my property. It had a change of clothes, five of my worn-in books, a newspaper and a gift certificate from a pharmacy. I had thought that the duo would find my bike and read my paper, but if they did that, they would be able to see everything, which might be another deterrent against them. My suitcase, which I had left by the rental bike, contained something special for my 2-year-old son who had just turned 1. He wanted to see us all again.
I also imagined what someone like me is like, or at least what I imagine when I ride a bike through a city, cycling through a housing project, wearing my husband’s leather jacket and giving them, as the song says, “what they need,” if it means I can get where I’m going. I imagine they might appreciate my determination to finish whatever I was doing as quickly as possible. I also picture who I imagine makes up that part of my imagination: a young woman, maybe a tall one. I imagined what my missing phone looks like in Toronto, with a different signal antenna.
The moment I went for my bike I was not out of sight. While the suspects were still up to no good, thanks to social media, I wasn’t alone on the road. I saw another man, around the same age, another man and a woman riding a bike. All with children, I could tell; maybe one was looking after his children. For the most part, I got glances or radar warnings as I pedaled. That helped calm me down.
At first, I spent most of my time on the street, looking for my bike, strolling through the housing project. I would try to call home, because more than once I let voicemail play in my head when it came time to be home. But I could not find my bike. Someone was looking for my bike, after all.
I had considered using my two grown sons as witnesses, because they were within reach at their schools. We had discussed that possibility previously, in the literal sense of kidnapping. But they seemed more likely to kill me if they were wearing disguises. I finally went back home, and it was depressing. I found my bike in the bike rack. The frame wasn’t there, which was upsetting, given how much I had thought about the frame. The bikes on my street were black with red thread. Mine was red, but it still had yellow along the front chain.
I wondered, how did I go from not finding my bike to it right there.
I had tried calling the police, but a domestic violence response team told me they have their hands full and couldn’t take any calls. I had put the bike in the back of the rental store’s pickup truck. When I arrived at work on the sunny streets of downtown Toronto, where, in winter, the sky is blue, the sky is blue, and the sky is blue, I could see and hear a few stolen bikes in front of the RIDE house, a group that, among other things, works with young people who are homeless and has bicycle theft or conflict with police issues.
I could see the bikes.
They, like me, had fallen victim to the thieving trend in Toronto. More than three hundred stolen bikes were recovered in 2017. A police officer told me they’re now known as “assaults bikes.” Bicycles being stolen seem to be a phenomenon in Canada; there was a magazine article in a national newspaper that said Toronto had the most thefts of bicycles in 2017. “Bike thieves are more worried about snow than arrests,” said one unidentified police officer.
A bike thefts prevention officer said most bike thefts occur when people leave their bikes unattended. He can’t tell you why. He can’t tell you how or where you can keep your bike. He can only tell you that this is something to be seen and