Noticing something that isn’t there

September 29, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 29, 2014

Speaking of mishaps involving my bicycle.

On Friday afternoon, I drove southeast from Durham to Raleigh. The plan was to visit at least one of Raleigh’s second-hand stores — I’m rather partial to Edward McKay Used Books and More — and unload some unwanted books and DVDs.

Suddenly, I realized that my car was missing something. I looked in the rear-view mirror and twisted my head. Sure enough: I confirmed that I am now the former owner of a bicycle.

After I tumbled off of my two-wheeler in August, a generous couple drove me and my bicycle home. Someone brought the bicycle into my parent’s garage, and it remained there, essentially untouched by me, until it was time to return to Durham. Then I strapped the conveyance to my car’s bike carrier and secured it with my bicycle lock.

I left the New York City environs on a Wednesday morning in early September and got back to the Triangle that evening.

Normally on Sunday afternoons, I like to go to a Durham restaurant called Saladelia and play Scrabble with a small group of regulars. That starts around 2 p.m., which happens to be exactly when the Durham Bike Co-Op holds its weekend hours. Still, it had to be done. So after dithering for a few hours on Sunday, I resolved to get my bicycle fixed.

Around 1 p.m., I headed over to the cooperative to make sure I was the first in line to get serviced. I pulled out my folding chair and settled in to read a novel.

It turned out that the bicycle was in decent shape; the crash hadn’t inflicted much damage. Unfortunately, the tension was off on the front brake regulator (which probably isn’t the proper term for this part). My mechanic, a tattooed white guy with a strong country accent, rooted through a bucket of zip-tied salvaged pairs of brake regulators in order to find a suitable replacement. That took a while; even after one was located, my mechanic had to consult with Dave, the co-op’s knowledgable manager, to reassemble the parts properly.

It was after 3 p.m. when my bicycle was finished. I paid my tab ($5 or less, if I recall properly) and walked my two-wheeler back to my car. I put it back on the carrier and drove off.

And my bicycle stayed on the carrier for weeks, until Thursday night or Friday morning.

I’m positive that the bike was on my car when I drove home Thursday night. But when I left for Raleigh on Friday afternoon, it wasn’t there — an absence, as stated, that I did not notice until mid-journey, when I was on the highway. (This was partly because I was in a rush to leave and carrying a big basket full of castoff books and DVDs.)

When I parked at Edward McKay, I climbed out of my Honda and confirmed that the bike was gone.

There wasn’t anything to be done. I got my basket and went into the store and carried on with my business.

What happened — beyond, obviously, someone coming and taking my bike? Well, that shouldn’t have been possible, because I usually lock my two-wheeler to its carrier.

Usually. I remember that on the day I got my bike fixed, I wasn’t feeling very sharp. Obviously, I must not have secured it with the lock.

I had plenty of opportunities to notice this. I failed to do so. I could have, at any time, chained the bike to its usual post by my house. It seemed too bothersome to attend to. I could have, at any time, gone for a ride. I never felt quite up to it.

Now the bicycle’s gone. And I’m thoroughly annoyed by and disappointed in myself.

I fondly remember driving over to the Bicycle Chain on Broad Street in Durham — an outlet of a local store that has since been subsumed by Whole Foods — to purchase that Trek. It was a basic model, but it served me well.

I’ll have to replace it. And that’s about the size of that.

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