Lock It, Take It or Lose It

May 18th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

thief as ratCost center two returned from the University of Rochester with enough detritus to heap the mini-van window to window, plus a bike hung off the back. As we began to bike together, I noted that he had neither the mirror nor the headlight I had screwed or bolted onto his two-wheeled vehicle before he left.

For me, I use strap-on headlight and mirror. Then again, I’m a tech writer and anal-retentive sort. I have no problem remembering to take off those, plus the snap-in pump when my road bike is out of sight. There aren’t too many college freshmen that tight.

My son had not noticed the accessories were missing. The theft is not good, but I was more concerned that this meant that 1) he (as Conan Doyle had Holmes say) saw but did not observe  and 2) he had been riding in city traffic without using his mirror.

His response was one of wonderment. How is it that a research university populated nine months a year mostly by well-off, bright, suburban sorts would steal? Moreover, Uof R has many cyclists and many filled bike racks, quite literally next to every class, dorm and function building.

Probably no student there was too poor to afford a bike light and mirror. So, my son further wondered why they would steal his. On top of it all, these thefts required a screwdriver and pliers or the right sized wrench.

My mother had a tale of her own such awakening. On her first long train ride as a teen college student, she left her purse hanging from the seat back. She dozed off and someone made off with her spending money. As she told it, “I was just a dumb country girl. It never crossed my mind that people with steal from each other in plain sight.”

For the bike parts, the stereotypes may hold. After all, stereotypes are based on historic realities most often and many have some truth deep within them.  One such is that poor people steal what they cannot afford, often feeling resentful and entitled for what others have. Another is that rich people steal because they feel privileged and find taking something and inconveniencing others an amusing diversion. Having been a college student myself way back when, I’m perfectly willing to get even simpler — pour two or more beers into a student and you shouldn’t be surprised when alcohol drowns the ethics and conscience critters hanging around.

So for the fall, it won’t be as bad and sad as fearing to let your kids play outside for paranoia about evil people stalking, stalking. Yet, my son will have to build in new security rituals.

I’ll provide a third mirror. He fell and broke one before heading off the college. I’ll also ride with him this summer and train him in using the mirror all the time. I’ll take him places like restaurants where we add to the locking routine. He’ll have to take the loose parts off the bike and replace them before heading home. I can model that behavior well enough. It is a mild distrust I have and have acted on for many years.

In terms of loss of innocence and disillusionment with fellow humans, this is pretty low level. I am still a little sad that the rituals would be necessary and wise.

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2 Responses

  1. Uncle says:

    Chesterton’s detective, Father Brown, is rather good on this. Something like, “you are quite sure you could never commit such a crime. I am quite sure that I could.” I’ve always found that a good corrective to carelessness. Of course, when I mentioned it to an employee of mine whose purse was stolen during a lecture at the Old South Church, she used her fists on me instead of the actual perp. Messengers do get shot.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    Perhaps she should have accepted it as the danger for salons, lectures and other intellectual pretense. Har.

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