My bike was stolen tonight.
This wasn't just any bike though. The beautiful Giant hybrid commuter bike was given to me in an unbelievable act of kindness and generosity by a parent at our school. He heard that my current bike was in shambles (which it is), and took a few weeks to fix up a spare bike he had in storage.
Then, this afternoon, his son came into my room and said that there was a bicycle waiting for me out in front of the school. In total disbelief, I walked out to the street and saw his dad next to the bike, and my disbelief continued when he told me he wouldn't let me pay him anything for it.
What a guy.
So, imagine my joy at riding this home. I cruised across the bridge and along the river twice as fast as I normally do (or even can do) and blabbed on to Rachael about my surprise. I couldn't think of a better way to end our first year in Japan.
Then, we went out to meet our friends for dinner and I parked the new bike where I always park my bike near the train station. Since my lock broke a month ago, I have not locked my bike there and haven't had a problem. Plus, I didn't have a lock for the new bike yet since I'd only had it for an hour or so and didn't have time to go shopping for a new lock on my way home. There were literally hundreds of other bikes around ours, so I wasn't too concerned about it.
We then went to a fantastic dinner with some of our close friends here, eating various cuts of beef, pork, and innards grilled at the table on miniature charcoal grills.
After dinner, we walked up the street toward the bike parking and I immediately noticed that Rachael's bike was laying down (locked up) and my beautiful new bike was not next to hers like I left it. My brand new bike was stolen. Yes, I know, it should have been locked up. But regardless of that fact, I was pretty upset. After looking around for a minute or two and realizing it was definitely gone, we began walking home and I started thinking about my options.
Hmmm. I could walk a block to the nearest police hut and report it stolen! Wait, I have no idea how to do that and the bike isn't even registered to me. That won't work.
What if I still report it as stolen, but give them the name of the parent who gave me the bike, since it's probably registered in his name? Wait, I don't actually know his full name...or address...or much of anything about him.
Then, I called this parent's son's teacher, a first grade teacher and friend of ours, to get as much information about him as I could before going to the police hut. As I was telling her the story about the bicycle gift and how it was stolen (standing maybe two blocks from where it was taken at an intersection), Rachael said in a very subtle way, "Brad..."
I could tell by the sound of her voice that she wasn't just trying to get my attention like normal. I followed her gaze, and she was staring at a young Japanese kid, maybe 18 years old, with bleach-blonde spiked hair. He happened to be sitting on a bike that looked identical to the bike I had just received that afternoon. In fact, he was riding MY NEW BIKE!
Using a few choice words and a...slightly raised...voice, I skipped translating and went straight for yelling at this kid in English. At first, he just stood at the side of the bike, looking absolutely stunned and slowly looking it over, like he didn't understand what I was saying. It was at that moment that I froze and thought, wait, I'm yelling at this kid and he may just have a similar bike. I mean, I just got it this afternoon...
Just then, I remembered that there was a bit of rust in the center of the handlebars that I thought about cleaning up, so I looked for that. When I saw that rust smiling back at me, I knew it was the right bike and starting yelling at the kid again. After about 10 seconds of this, he backed away, bowed a few times, and tried to say he was sorry in Japanese (gomenasai).
He then proceeded to stare at me until I told him to "get out of here." He and his friend then walked calmly away without turning back.
Rachael said the strangest thing about the whole confrontation was that not a single person around us reacted to my yelling at all. For those of you who know me, I don't really yell. Ever. So this was an uncharacteristic burst of rage from someone who usually can keep his cool pretty well.
Most importantly though, I got the bike back. It is currently sitting in our kitchen since I didn't even feel comfortable leaving it downstairs in the bike shed for the night. This was a day of extremes. First, I felt absolutely blessed by this man and his family through this kind gift. Then, I felt absolutely terrible that I had managed to get this brand new gift stolen in no more than two hours.
We have two days left of school before the year is over and we return home for a summer of time with our family. This was definitely an unforgettable day, and you'll have to excuse me if you read about the crazy gaijin with seventeen bike locks on his bike.