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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Bikes? Yikes

<w it was my fault my bike was stolen. My cheap, five-dollar lock broke in the fall, and I never bothered to replace it. Call it laziness, hubris, blind optimism, whatever — I just figured no one would take my rickety old bike (which I’d affectionately named Percival) because it wasn’t theirs. And it turned out just fine: after my bike did disappear from the lamppost I left it leaned against one Saturday this spring, I found it a few days later while walking past Watson, nonchalantly parked next to all the other bikes in the lot. It didn't have a lock — I guess the thief was just as lazy as I was — and so I easily reclaimed it.

I was happy to have Percival back, but besides being frustrated with myself for my carelessness, I wasn’t particularly mad when my bike was stolen. Mostly, I was bewildered. Had someone thought my bike was theirs? But it was distinct in make, and I ’ d left it in a unique location, far from any other bikes. Or maybe someone was in a hurry, saw it, and sped away with some intention of returning it — but then, who did they think they would return it to?

Someone had stolen it, and that person had likely been fully aware of their actions. Perhaps they justified the actions by promising to return the bike, but it was clear the intention had been to take it. Beyond that, their hypothetical thought process was inconceivable to me.

I like Carleton, and I feel safe here. I certainly don’t think of any Carls as being “thieves. ” And yet, bikes get stolen frequently, and I’m unsure whether its something we should be concerned about — because it is a small issue, a nuisance, but sometimes small issues have larger implications, both for the individual and the collective.

In elementary school, my teachers always emphasized that “character is who you are when no one is watching,” a more inclusive paraphrase of the John Wooden quote, “the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching” (I went to an all-girl’s school). And so I wonder: if you are the kind of person who steals a bike when no one is watching, what kind of person are you? Or tangentially, one might ask: if we are the kind of community where bikes are stolen frequently, what kind of community are we?

I don’t intend to grip. As I said, I’m not mad my bike was stolen. It was my fault. And I do think, for the most part, that our community is safe, trustworthy and welcoming. But minor misgivings can build up, and a stolen bike can plant a seed in your brain. Maybe everyone isn’t as trustworthy as I thought. Maybe we all come from different backgrounds, with different value systems, and this isn’t elementary school anymore.

Or, maybe we live in enough of a “bubble” at college that people stealing bikes is actually a good thing. Because let’s be honest: out in the “real world” (whatever that means), I’m pretty certain you can’t just leave your bike unlocked for five months, and then when its stolen, find it again, neatly parked and unscathed, outside of Watson.

All things considered, briefly losing your rickety old bike is a small price to pay for the reminder that not everyone has the same good motives as you.

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