April 5, 2002
Hard Lessons

The City of Alameda police officer is kind, if not overly sympathetic.

"Why would anyone leave an eleven hundred dollar bicycle parked outside their apartment?" he asks incredulously. And he looks at David and I as though we are both missing key *Common Sense Molecules.*

David and I exchange a briefly mortified glance. "Where would we have put it?" David says finally. 

The young police officer looks up from his clipboard and glances around at our four-hundred-square-foot shoebox of an apartment: at the guitar magazines and record albums, stacked five feet deep ... at the vacuum cleaner, parked in the middle of the kitchen ... at Daughter #1, sitting on the sofa with her unpacked luggage still piled all around her, looking tired and stricken.

"I guess I see your point," he says, both his tone and his expression softening slightly. But the unspoken implication is still there.

If you're going to spend that much money on a bicycle ... shouldn't you take extraordinary precautions to keep it safe?

What can I tell you? He's absolutely right. If you're going to spend that much money on a bicycle, you should take extraordinary precautions to keep it safe.

It's a lesson we are learning the hard way.

Sometime yesterday, between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. -- while we were at work, maybe, or while we were picking Daughter #1 up from the airport, or while we were all having dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant over on Park Street -- who knows when, exactly? -- somebody managed to get inside our "security" apartment complex, took a pair of bolt cutters and severed the steel cable combination lock threaded through the concrete stairwell two feet from our front door ...

... and walked off with my groovy new bike.

Gone. Poof. Just like that.

We did everything by the book, of course, the instant we got home and realized the bike was missing. We stayed very calm. We called the police immediately. We went to the manager's apartment and notified her of the theft. We walked around the apartment complex and checked stairwells, balconies, laundry rooms, the dumpster area behind the building. We even posted a hastily-typewritten notice on the community bulletin board, asking anyone who might have seen anything 'suspicious' to contact the police. Once the police officer showed up, we produced all of the paperwork: receipts (dated March 16th), serial numbers, model specifications, digital photos from the website.

Now, as he stands in the middle of our living room writing up his report, the young officer tells us that his department manages to recover a fair number of stolen bicycles. 

"You'd be surprised," he says encouragingly. 

But I think we all know, in our heart of hearts, that my bike is gone.

I am heartsick. I loved my groovy new bike. I'm also angry and embarrassed and sad and disappointed in mankind in general. Still, my main concern at the moment is Jaymi: not only because this is a visit we've both been looking forward to very much, and it's gotten off to a monumentally crappy start ... but also because I don't want her assuming any of the emotional burden here. This has been a pattern with us for far too many years: the daughter mothering the mother. I want her not only to see me handling a crisis, head-on, I want her to see me handling it calmly, responsibly, maturely, good-humoredly. No crying. No using the *F* word. No throwing things or putting my fist through windows or blaming someone else for my own stoopidity.

And no dive-bombing into a bucket of cheap chablis.

After the police officer finishes his report and leaves to go interview our neighbors, I sit down on the sofa next to Jaymi. She is very still and very quiet: sadness oozes from her every pore. I lay my head on her shoulder and tell her that everything is going to be OK. I'll just have to save my money and buy another bike: in the meantime, I've got the old reliable Schwinn. 

"I know this is a crummy way to start our visit," I said. "But think of it this way: Five-Years-Ago-Mom would probably be driving to Trailer Town for wine right now, if someone had stolen her bike."

"Nope," Jaymi replies, shaking her head. "Five-Years-Ago Mom wouldn't even have HAD a bike in the first place."

She's got a point.

I think we'll be OK. 

We'll be fine.

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