Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Letter to a Thief

Dear Thief;

First, I'd like to thank you for affirming my feeling: my bike, with its sassy red and white striping, is worth a second look. No doubt that is what prompted you to take a closer look at it, thus realizing you could make off with one of its accessories. The computer attached to the handlebars might not be of much use to you, especially since you only took the display – not the wiring, sensor or mounting cradle, but then: who knows what motivates a thief to steal anything? Certainly not me. I can't even conceive of taking anything that doesn't belong to me, whether I need it or not.

This is the third time something has been stolen off my bike. The first time, while my lovely bike was chained to a bus stop, the flashlight used as a headlight was taken. I take total blame for that; I should have known better than to leave such a useful and convenient accoutrement so blatantly available, especially as that particular bus stop lies directly along the path that middle-schoolers follow home. I can see a child's eye captivated by that tall, red-and-white machine that I ride, and being tempted to snag that light. What child doesn't like a flashlight? Especially a cool, compact one with a high-discharge LED beam?

The second time, a thief made off with the pump I kept strapped to the bike's rack. Whereas I usually keep my bike in my house, that day it was parked just outside my ground floor apartment because I had to go to class that afternoon. During my mid-day snooze, I thought I heard someone tinkering with my bike through the open balcony door. Too lazy and sleepy to get up, I told myself it was all in my mind, and kept on drowsing.

That theft was a bit more disappointing. I'd kept that pump on the back of my bike ever since I've owned it and it had never been taken, even when I left the bike at a bus stop (so I could ride public transportation into town). On our campus, everyone knows that bike is mine, and I'm well-liked by everyone. I can't imagine anyone here deliberately stealing something from me. However, I have an upstairs neighbor who is... not quite right in the head, to say it kindly. He scavenges around campus, hauling all manner of things to store in our building's foyer. Every few days, it gets to be too messy and then, I can hear him muttering to himself as he sorts through his trash, deciding what to haul away and what to keep.

If he is indeed the taker of my bike's pump, I can forgive him. Surely, he doesn't know any better. Besides, a bike pump can be useful in all sorts of ways. So, that theft, too, makes a measure of sense.

But you, dear Thief. You are a complete stranger to me and to my bike. You took something you cannot possibly use, and that has no meaning to you. You stripped my beloved ride of a tool I need to gauge my riding. You see, I don't just ride because it is fun and healthy. I ride because I intend to reach a goal I'd set for myself since my return to good health 2 years ago: riding long distance.

Because of my broken leg, I was forced to stop training. My plans for the summer just past, distance riding, were shelved because I hadn't healed enough to undertake that challenge. Now, with a clean bill of health, I'm letting nothing stop me from training: not bad weather or cold, not the ache in my knees or my breath, rendered harsh from the dirty air. I may cough for hours after a ride and suffer a raw throat, but for me, it is all worth it to reach my goal.

And then, while visiting with my good friend, who lives in a newly-built housing area where apartments sell for thousands of Yuan per square meter, you, low-life taker of things not yours, saw fit to strip me of the tool that is helping me track my progress and fitness. And for what? What could that computer interface possibly do for you?

Now, I need to thank you again, Thief. I had always believed in humans' fundamental good nature. I had always believed me and my things were safer in China than anywhere else in the world and, surely, leaving my bike in the foyer of a new, fancy apartment building, it would be safe from people like you. Now I see how wrong I was. I now know I will have to be ever vigilant, making sure I leave nothing for you to take. I will have to live as though you are around every corner, ready to snatch what doesn't belong to you.

See how you damage society with your selfishness and greed? And I'm only one person. Imagine everybody having suffered a theft. Wouldn't they too lose faith in humanity? Be wary of new contacts? How can anyone be open and friendly when there are people like you, ready to take what is best about people - trust, and destroy it?      

What if somebody stole something of great personal value from you? How would you feel? Would you even feel?

Finally: I thank you a third time, Thief. That computer had stopped working for some reason, and I was going to replace it anyway. I couldn't justify rushing to town to buy a new one, with my month-long absence from the country imminent, and I was loath to spend the money on a new computer if all the old one needed was a new battery (I hadn't had time to check it, yet). I was going to wait until I got back to China to resume my fitness log. Since your pilfery, I can justify spending 50 Yuan on a new accessory. And I get to laugh at you for stealing something that doesn't work. 

But make no mistake, Thief: I will attach my new device in such a way that you will have to work to steal it.

                                                          With accessories



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