Bike locks like udon noodles

Yes, I threw the dice in that dimly lit parking lot, calculating my Bike of Destiny would be safe.

by John Hoff

If you read no more than the first sentence, heed well this prophesy: Lock up your bike with Kryptonite, or you won’t be riding it very long.

What, I ask you, is a sturdy chain and combination lock? One snip of the bolt cutters, and that Master Lock steel turns into a thick udon noodle, hacked in half with a chopstick. Is it wrong to hope that my bike was hocked to buy contaminated and deadly smack or an hour with some hooker who isn’t careful about bodily fluids?

Flash back two weeks, when I was the proud owner of BOD -The Bike of Destiny – and walked into the Transportation and so-called Safety Building to register it as per the regulations. Left, right, left. It was already registered in North Dakota but, hey, you can’t register a bike too many times. The walls inside the entrance to the campus cop shop are festooned with positive, glowing letters. “Thank you for being so kind, when you arrested my sonny boy for a felony” or words to that effect.

Seriously, I asked about bike registration, and a young woman at the front desk told me in a confident, authoritative tone, “We don’t do that anymore.” I thought, darkly, “Happy happy day, they think bikes don’t get ripped off anymore?” Later, I learned she was as wrong as she was confident.

I knew a Kryptonite lock would be superior to what I was using, but I calculated the time I would be gone, the rather public place. Yes, I threw the dice in that dimly lit parking lot, calculating my BOD would be safe, but the dice crapped out. It wasn’t a rip-off so much as a harvest … no sense leaving broken lock crumbs, the thief must have thought, someone might catch wind of the same gnawing rat.

In cold, rational numbers of bureaucratic efficiency, Officer 5580, driving Squad 227, generated Case Number 05-228444. Days later, I obtained the serial number and had it added to the report. What faint, pathetic odds. Where is my gee-damn Stud-Gov when I need it? I want the people at the cop shop to know about registration and have the freaking forms handy, I want STING OPERATIONS against bike burglars, I want people in uniform with loaded weapons physically going into chop shops to rescue BOD and all the other bicycle victims. Argh!

Breathe. Well, you see, I lost half an inch off my leg in a stateside military accident, so until my brother brought me an $8 rummage sale bike, I was hurting. Still I look at each bike on the racks, each passing rider … looking for the Enemy. My bike is like a child on a milk carton, and what do I have left but memories?

An Homage to BOD. Nobody knows his true origins. BOD started out as a lost bike at a rundown North Dakota apartment building, and was duly turned in to the police department. In 60 days, I reclaimed him, now my own property. It was like a Disney movie, where some boy adopts a clever stray doggy, some girl gets a baby zebra. Once the Newman Center at UND had a charity bike race, and needed loaners. Some poor bikeless kid leaped on board and rode like the wind that day. But the owner of the apartment building where BOD was found grew jealous and said BOD should be, rightfully, his not mine. (Cue heart-stopping music!) He “traded” ownership for an arcane favor involving some controversial real estate, a favor important enough that it was notarized and filed forever with the county clerk.

Who owned BOD before me? What stories could they tell? What kind of rough crowd do they hang out with now? Are they scared? Left in the rain? My word, what kind of deviant things happen to stolen leather seats? Officer 5580, friendly and professional, said Dinkytown was “like a swap meet” the way bikes changed hands.

Maybe the person who took my bike had no other way to get to a job, or a desperate need to elude some violent middle school bully. My bike becomes an informal social program, a sudden and stealthy tax for the greater good. I am detached like Buddha, now, and sort of accept it. Ohhhmm. What I do not accept is a systemic failure to deal with a common and notorious problem seriously impacting the life of students.

Sigh. Fare thee well, Bike of Destiny. You may ride with an outlaw, but you are still a good bike.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]