Of angels and thieves

In my life, I have had the great good fortune to meet amazing people. I’m not talking about famous people – though I’ve met a few – but regular, ordinary people going about their day.

Primarily, these strangers have helped me when I’m lost or in great despair.

  • A man once offered to drop six feet, carry me across five train tracks and lift me up to the proper platform.
  • A man helped me search for (and find) permanent lodging in a city strange to me.
  • A security guard brought a box of tissues and sat with my mom and me while we sobbed in a hospital lobby.
  • A man bought me a plane ticket and put me up in a hotel because I had missed my train and had only $50 and no credit card.
  • Men have heaved my car from a ditch during a blizzard.
  • A woman running a busy restaurant brought me a cup of strong tea, laid her hand on my shoulder and said, “Stay as long as you need to.”
  • A man noticed at 5:45 pm on a Saturday that my tire was flat, then fixed it.
  • A man brought me a bottle of cold water on a scorching day, even though I appeared to be a vagrant.

Humanity and the gift of the human spirit has touched me more times than I can count. I leave these encounters with a sense of grace. I know these people to be angels. And these angels inspire me to be more selfless.

Today, my mountain bike was stolen. In broad daylight. It was locked up. It was outside for less than an hour.

My feet and my bicycle are my prime means of transportation in the city. My bike is also my favourite “recreational vehicle.”

This is the second bike I’ve had stolen. These are not high-end bikes, but serviceable ones that get me around town.

Though someone in the dental office saw a female with orange hair, a black hoodie and yoga pants head west on my bike, I don’t expect to ever see it again. The financial loss of a 15-year-old mountain bike is minor.

Still, I was upset. Not in an angry way, but I was disappointed that this woman so brashly took what wasn’t hers. I felt the same way when my car was stolen from a locked garage and my husband’s truck stolen from the driveway. They are just things that can be replaced, but I was disheartened.

Did she need the bike? Was it a lark? Did she have any idea how much I used it? Did she care?

The witness who saw my bike leave reported the two women had lots of bags with them. “Well, at least, maybe they needed a bike,” I said.

Still, I pictured the two of them wobbling on the bike, laden with shopping and laughing their heads off.

I went to the bank while I debated whether to report the theft to the RCMP. I know they have better things to do. I know the bike is gone.

Three peace officers were outside the City Centre station when I walked by, getting ready to get into their vehicles. I asked whether I should bother reporting it. They asked it if was licensed, if I knew the serial number. They told me it would be unlikely it would be recovered, but encouraged me to report it to the RCMP.

I was about to thank them when one officer said, “You mean it was just stolen? Not like a couple of days ago?”

“It was within the last hour.”

He took down my name, phone number, a description of the bike and of the suspects. “You never know,” he said.

Though I suspected he was just being kind, I felt the twinge of humanity. I walked to the RCMP station and filled out a report. I walked home.

I was mid-story in telling my husband and son about what happened when the phone rang.

“That would be the police,” I said. “They’ve found my bike.”

As I picked up the phone, I heard the echo of my comment in the kitchen and the laughter. “She doesn’t know he was humouring her. She actually thinks they care.”

It was the police officer. He had a few questions about my bike. Wanted a better description.

“We found an abandoned bike,” he said. “I think it might be yours.”

I hung up the phone and addressed the cynics in the kitchen. “That was the police. They may have found it. He’s sending me a picture.”

It wasn’t my bike.

But I felt heartened. I hadn’t been brushed off or made to feel stupid. The peace officer cared.

After I spoke with him and sent him a picture of my bike, I thought of another descriptor I should have used: It has no back brakes.

And I’m sure you’re picturing now what I’m picturing. The thief speeding away, going downhill fast, squeezing the brake. Nothing happens. Squeezing harder. Reefing on the front brake.

Flipping over the handlebars.

If you’re looking for me tonight, I’ll be at the ER. On a stake out. Looking for an injured woman with orange hair.

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