Today is one of my proudest days as a New Yorker.
My bike got stolen last night and goddamn if I didn’t have it back before noon today, thanks to a curious but powerful mixture of internet savvy, a responsive police force, and one very special “Law and Order” fan.
Last night I went to meet Maura at the Arcade Fire/Spoon show at Madison Square Garden, so I biked to the Marcy JMZ subway stop and locked my bike there, and then took the train into the city. Then I went to the show which was awesome. Spoon was awesome. Arcade Fire was awesome. It was a truly inspirational musical event of both delicate and epic proportions. We had some drinks. I got on the train around 1 AM and it took me an hour to get home but I was so thrilled by the show I didn’t even care that much. I got off the train, still feeling pretty jaunty, and when I went to get my bike it was gone.
I didn’t cry but I jutted my lower lip out the entire way home. It was a genuine sad face. I tried to stop the sad face but I could not. I really love my yellow bike, and it is summer and riding your bike is the best, and also it is my main form of transportation around town. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to afford a new one, and seriously, I was super bummed. It is a material object, yes, and it can be replaced, but it’s MY BIKE AND I LOVE IT.
I sad-faced myself to sleep.
This morning I woke up around 9 AM and checked Craigslist to see if there were any reasonably priced bikes on there and lo and behold, there was a picture of my bike for sale for $75. They even had a picture of the scratches. I called the number and spoke with someone who said he lived on South 8th Street, near Peter Luger’s, which is two blocks from where the bike was stolen. I said, “I’m in the neighborhood, I could come by, I’m just a few blocks away.” And this freaked him out a little bit, so he got off the phone with me almost immediately, saying he had just woken up, and he would call me back. He never did.
I consulted with Maura, who (1) knows everything about the internet and (2) has watched pretty much every single episode of “Law and Order.” Both of these things combined together means she is basically a cop. Maura googled the fuck out of this guy and had all of his other Craigslist ads (which included a bunch of other bikes for sale as well as the opportunity to live in his living room for $850 a month, which, p.s., don’t move in with him, ok?), his wife’s mypsace page, and his facebook page, in like three minutes. So basically he was going to be trapped, in one way or another, it was just a question of how.
I asked Maura to call the guy and see if he would talk to her, and to say she lived in Greenpoint and not my neighborhood, so the guy wouldn’t freak out. He said he would either bring the bike to her or meet her in front of Peter Luger’s.
At this point I just decided to call the cops, because it is their job to contend with things like this, and I like to believe there is some order in the universe. I called them before 10 AM. A squad car arrived about fifteen minutes later, and the adventure began.
Let me preface this by saying that every single person I interacted with was beyond professional and incredibly well-mannered and polite. Thumbs up, South Williamsburg police officers. You guys are the shit.
I would also like to say that I was totally hungover throughout all of this, and yet full of energy because that fucker stole my bike and put it on craigslist and I was going to GET HIM.
Ok, so the police officer asked me a few questions (hell yea, I’ll press charges), and then he made a call and then two undercover cops showed up in a dented car. They looked really young, and they had bulletproof vests on under their t-shirts so they also looked strangely puffy. We talked for a while, and they explained to me that even if this man did not steal the bike, he could still be arrested for possessing stolen goods. They suspected that he was probably just a fence.
“In this neighborhood, the crackheads break into people’s apartments because they know there’s a place they can take whatever they steal, laptops, whatever, and sell it and get money for their drugs. So it’s important to stop the cycle however we can,” explained one of the officers.
I showed them my printout of the craigslist ad, and they asked me a bunch of questions about identifying marks on the bike. The only identifying marks I could recall were the two things that I had been meaning to fix but hadn’t, parts where bolts had fallen off. But I remembered those scratches too, which were visible on the Craigslist ad, and I pointed those out. I was slightly worried that we would get there and it wouldn’t be my bike after all and I would have wasted all of their time, which I said to them. But one cop said, “Usually if you feel it in your gut you’re probably right.”
Then all of a sudden the cops got a call and dashed off, the uniformed officer making the shape of a gun with his fingers at me (!), and I sat on my front stoop for a while, and then they came back a few minutes later with even more undercover cops. And there I was, hanging with the cops on my front stoop, PLOTTING OUR STING.
We decided we would have Maura call him back and have him meet me in front of Peter Luger’s at 11 AM, and then I would go and meet him, and the undercover cops would be on two different corners in their cars, and then they would jump out when he came with the bike and nab him! For real! They did ask me if I wanted to have a friend come with me, but I figured I was safe as a kitten in front of Peter Luger’s. (I always feel like those waiters are just itching to kick someone’s ass.)
So they drove me a few blocks away from the restaurant, and as I walked up there, I texted Maura, and she called the dude. And then a few minutes later he he rode up on a yellow bike, this big, tattoo-covered, dreadlocked dude who I so would not have wanted to face alone. I looked at the bike, and he had attempted to fix one of the things that was broken, but the other part, which I had carefully described to the police officers, was still unfixed, which was the first thing he pointed out to me, as if he were being an honest salesman. I almost started laughing. It was definitely my bike!
And then the cops all converged on the guy, and they said, “Can we talk to you over here?” to him which sounds very nice but I assure you was not really said as a question. And then he was over against the Peter Luger’s wall with all the cops and I was alone with my bike. And then they were asking him all these questions, and he was like, “I do not steal bikes, I buy them from this guy,” and then within a minute they had extracted that he was a junkie, that he bought these bikes from another junkie, and even how much junk he consumed a day. Detective work in action! They cuffed him and put him in the squad car.
While they took pictures of my bike, I chatted with the cops. One of the officers believed the junkie, but another did not, and said that he had cameras on the area where the bike was stolen, and that he was going to check the footage from last night later. He was the same one who had told me to trust my gut.
Everyone was feeling a little giddy, I could tell. It was now 11:30 AM and we had made some justice happen in a very short period of time.
One of the cops said, “A lot of people get robbed in this town, but very few get their stuff back. You’re very lucky.”
And then I did this dorky little cheer and lifted my hands in the air like Rocky on the steps of that art museum. I said, “Well, thank you guys! I am a satisfied customer. My tax dollars hard at work.”
And the other cop said, “You did all the hard work. All that internet research, finding it on Craigslist.”
And another cop said, “You could join the force.”
And then I rode off on my bike, and I haven’t been able to stop laughing and smiling for the last hour. This is one of the best days of my life, no joke.