As I rode my vintage Cannondale bicycle to a meeting with Gathering Waters Design this morning, I wondered, “Where will I lock this beautiful machine in the sketchy neighborhood around Gathering Waters?”
When I got there, I looked for a bike rack by Gathering Waters and found none. I was early so I rode around the nearby fire station to see if they had a bike rack. They didn’t. I decided to lock up to a tree in front of Gathering Waters.
After I looped the cable through the wheels, frame and around the tree, I closed the lock and yanked on it several times to make sure it was latched, I stepped back and surveyed the situation. It was right on busy 4th street. Surely no one would steal it in broad daylight.
I checked the time on my iPod and I was too early for my meeting. I decided to walk around a little. I sauntered down 4th Street looking at the houses and craning my neck to see gardens in back yards. I turned back toward Gathering Waters, but after checking the time, I turned around again to continue my walk around the block. I studied the garage on the corner thinking, “That looks like the place where we picked up our parakeet after her failed escape attempt.”
I didn’t have time to walk around the whole block so I turned into the alley, thinking, “It’s just a residential alley in a rough neighborhood. I will probably make it.” A few paces into the alley, I heard a car behind me. I turned to see a shiny, black Ford SUV turning into the alley. I moved to the side of the alley to continue my walk, and I nodded to the professional looking man in the passenger seat of the passing SUV. Then the vehicle turned to cut off my progress, the doors flew open and two young men stepped quickly out and stood on my right and my left. Immediately, I thought, “Oh no, the fuzz.”
The tall, dark-haired cop was on my left. The shorter red head was on my right. The tall cop did the talking. “Sir, can I ask you a couple questions?”
I said, “Sure,”
“Can you take your hand out of your pocket?”
“Sure.” I removed the offending hand.
He said, “What is your name?”
“I’m Eddie… Eddie Hale.”
“We saw you looking at that bike on the other side of the block. There have been a lot of thefts of higher end bikes in this neighborhood, and we wondered — what are you doing?”
I smiled a broad smile and said, “That’s my bike.”
He smiled back and said, “Oh… Can I ask you what you are doing in the neighborhood?”
“Sure, I have a meeting at that little church building on the corner. I got here way too early, so I thought I would walk around the block to kill some time.”
He said, “Oh. Okay. We saw you looking at that bike, and we pulled over. We said, ‘If he pulls a bolt cutter out of that backpack, we’ve got him.’”
I said, “Do you think my bike is safe there while I go to my meeting?”
He said, “Well… um… er… ya know… probably. I mean it’s on a busy street, and most of the thefts happen at night, though some of them have been happening during the day lately.”
I said, “Hmmm… Okay.”
Tall cop said, “Can I see your identification for the record?”
I pulled out my wallet (he was not worried about my hands venturing into my nefarious pockets anymore) and showed him my driver’s license. They both wished me a good day and got back in the car. I walked briskly toward my meeting and waved as they passed me on their way out of the alley.
A Better Place for a Bike
When I got in the little former church building, I was greeted by the photographer who owns the place. He said, “Go on up. They’re expecting you.”
I said, “Can I ask you a question? A police officer just wondered if I was stealing my own bike out in front of the building…”
He interrupted and said, “Sure, bring it in.” I went back out and wheeled my bike into the photography studio and leaned it on the wall. I went to my meeting and regaled my cohorts with the story of my brush with the law. They thought I was dressed too well to be a bike thief.
My wife thought it was ironic that I seldom arrive early for anything, and the time I when I do show up early, I almost get busted for it.
So you can all rest easy. My vintage Cannondale is still my vintage Cannondale. And the La Crosse cops know there is one bad guy you don’t mess with when he’s in the ‘hood.
The Making of…