Stolen bike, stolen dreams

Vanessa Pralle

This Monday is one of the prettiest days, I recall thinking as I stepped outside onto my front porch. My sappy bliss was abruptly interrupted a few moments later after discovering my beloved bike was stolen. Again. Yes, at this rate I’m going through a bike every two months, much to the chagrin of my devoted boyfriend who relentlessly reequips me from his family’s bicycle collection. (It’s really only a matter of time before they realize there’s no way one boy could be using so many bicycles simultaneously.) Unlike the last bike, my latest lock was a heavy-duty chain with an industrial mechanism to safeguard against any possible burglaries. Yet-oops, I did it again. The bike is gone, and they didn’t even leave the chain.

I think I’ve mourned the loss of this particular bike because there were so many memories associated with it. I’ve had the blue Schwinn for two years; first in Boston where I maneuvered my way through traffic each morning at 8 a.m. to arrive at work 6 miles away. That’s when my love affair with biking blossomed. Each morning as I pedaled down Commonwealth Ave, I noticed all the day’s details usually missed traveling via auto: shopkeepers emerging to wash their stoops, pretentious housewives walking designer pooches, disgruntled businessmen shuffling about, little kids waving their limbs around in summertime glee – I loved it all.

Pedaling this summer was no exception, as was my daily trek to Villanova, until this past Monday. I routinely left each morning with just enough time to hustle up Lancaster, amid the irritated-looking drivers stuck in treacherously long, congested traffic, to arrive in class unscathed, alert and convinced I’d burned off the previous night’s binging calories. I secretly liked it when complete strangers approached me with, “Hey, I almost hit you yesterday!” to well-meaning friends who honked as they passed by, scaring me half to death.

When I called the police department and the officer asked me how much the bike was worth, I had trouble answering. It wasn’t the cost, necessarily; it was that it was my bike, the bike that Matt lent me when we first began dating, the bike that rescued me from a monotonous office job, the bike that enabled my exploration of Bryn Mawr all summer.

Suddenly, I’m blubbering nonsense to the cop, phone to cheek, spilling tears over the loss of an old, clunky bike with busted gears and constantly deflated tires. I feel like a fourth grader writing this, but that dumb old bike had become a part of me, and I never realized how much I loved it until I joined the army of furious drivers cursing the red traffic lights.

I’d never be so presumptuous as to believe my loss even distantly comparable to the magnitude of pain experienced by Katrina victims in New Orleans, but I’ve been extra- fixated on how horrendous it must feel to have your entire life literally turned upside down.

This being said, I cannot fathom their pain especially knowing how broken-up I got over my stolen bike. Imagine losing family members, one’s home, neighborhood and all personal possessions. When Queen mother WASP herself, Barbara Bush, snickered on September 5 about the Superdome, “And so many of the people in this arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this – this is working very well for them,” I wanted to smash her signature pearls into crumbs and make her lick them up.

The way the Bush administration has handled the aftermath of Katrina could be likened to the Radnor cops hosting a Monster Truck Rally in light of my loss to destroy every bicycle in sight.

When you stop to think about how many people’s memories and entire histories have been completely obliterated, you would only hope that Bush (or should I say Rove?) and his cronies will offer some support after completely botching the initial efforts.

It is despicable that New Orleans families were offered $5,000 “job training, education and child care” grants while relatives of the 9-11 victims received a hefty $250,000 for their sorrows. In a country where the legacy of racism is so deeply engrained, I find it both disgusting and embarrassing that “the pillars of democracy” will not aid American citizens most deserving of relief.

My sorrow over losing the bike is a pin-prick compared to the anguish and torment felt by the displaced who lived in New Orleans.

I can only hope that a number value isn’t just assigned to the victims as an easy write-off because, unlike my bike, lives, memories, histories and dreams cannot so easily be replaced.