When I was about ten years old, I got my bike stolen. While I was on it.
And my goodness, was she a beauty. After spending two years riding some crusty blue generic two-wheeler my mom bought for me at a garage sale when I was seven, I finally got the bike of my dreams—a ten-speed neon yellow Trek Jazz (it was the early ‘90s; “neon” anything was all the rage) with a sport bottle holder and gear shift.
It was kind of like when Ralphie got the Red Rider BB Gun.
Now imagine me, a scrawny little book nerd circling his pedals awkwardly after a long day of baseball and tennis at the park, when suddenly (cue the “Wicked Witch of the West” theme) I see in the corner of my eye a group of nogoodniks swerving around a corner, clearly looking for trouble.
Eight kids on about three bikes—riding handle bars, pegs, you name it—and they were coming my way.
I’ve never been scared of black people, but up until I was about 23 years old I was consistently very scared of bullies and people who were larger than me. These kids may as well have been linebackers for the Bears compared to the solid seventy pounds I could’ve offered in fisticuffs.
So when one of these kids cut me off by skidding in front me, I had no choice but to stop. Palms sweating, voice wavering, and probably about twenty seconds from passing out, I asked the kid what he wanted while trying to ignore the ominous presence of the other seven kids behind me.
“Lemme get one of them tennis balls. I lost my dog and I need one help me go look for her.”
I plucked one out of my sport bottle holder and said, “There. Can you let me by now?”
It was then that a giant dark arm dropped around my little pencil neck like a 100-pound rope. “Get off the bike,” a deep voice said behind me. Must be the ring leader, probably an eighth grader all the other little buttheads looked up to.
Out of shock I hesitated for a moment, forgetting how exactly to move. My brain was prioritizing control of my scardy-cat bladder over other motor skills like, you know, getting off the bike.
So the kid said it again: “Get off the bike,” at which point I hopped right off the thing and watched the eight kids with three bikes drive away on four bikes—the most beautiful and neon of which was my beloved Trek Jazz.
Paralyzed, I just stood in the middle of the road for a minute trying to figure out what had just happened. After checking my body for stab wounds I may not have felt during the assault, I started the long journey home on foot.
Still filled with adrenaline, my legs hardly wanted to move—the muscles inside swished like jellyfish with every step. I probably cried, but in the way babies cry when they’re surprised by something. I wasn’t physically injured and I’ve never been the kind of person to spill tears over spilled milk, so it was most likely just a response to getting bike-jacked.
When I got home we called the police and filed a report, but I never did get that bike back. A few years later, I got a new ten-speed Trek Jazz (after spending the in between time with another garage sale Huffy), but this one was teal.
That one’s still in my possession and has given me some good mileage, but it’s just not as flashy.
And it doesn’t have a sport bottle holder.