(There is a reason crummy bikes dominate Italy.)
I was about to resurrect this blog with a braggy post about my newly improved cyclist skills, but then some jerk stole my (borrowed) bike!
I feel safe in Italy, but theft is a real problem. The majority of bike riders I know here—all of them, in fact—have had their bike stolen at least once. Who is buying all these bikes? How can the market possibly be that big? Does everyone give up after their new bike disappears and forever after only purchase stolen replacements? If you want a bike in Italy, the only thing you can do is buy something used—along with a large chain to lock it—and understand that one day it will be gone when you go looking for it.
Here is the story about how I lost my (borrowed) bicycle. I live outside the historic center of Reggio Emilia, a medieval town in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. Unfortunately, the buses stop running before 9 p.m. and to get into town, one must walk or bike.
On a recent Monday night, I peddle my way into town for a date that I’m not really in the mood for. It’s raining and I have my doubts about this guy,* but canceling at the last minute is impolite and I think it could be an adventure—understatement!
As I’m riding, rain pours down on me and I wonder if I have mascara streaming down my face. All of a sudden, I crash without braking into a wrought iron pole. In my defense, it’s painted black, knee-high and inexplicably placed in the middle of the sidewalk. Other than a bruised knee, I’m fine, but the bike’s chain is unhinged, so I lock it next to a bunch of other bikes and continue my journey on foot. Of course I’m late.
I apologize when I show up to the bar, which I see is not open on Monday. The guy comments that women are always late, it’s fine, and I explain my story, but he does not seem particularly concerned about my busted knee or bike. We start walking and I ask where we’re going and he says, “My place.” Curious. I had not planned on this. Yes, yes, I have second thoughts, too, (first thoughts, really) but I go.
As we enter his apartment, I see plates on the kitchen table and pork chops on the stove. “Oh no,” I say, still feeling guilty about being late. “I didn’t know you were cooking—I’m a vegetarian. I thought we were just getting a drink.” So, he eats two pork chops and, though I’m not hungry, I force myself to eat the prepackaged mozzarella accompaniment. We share red wine that I pray isn’t roofied and then I get the hell out of there.
I go to get my bike, but, what’s this? It’s nowhere to be found. I walk back and forth on the sidewalk inspecting all the remaining bikes because surely mine is mixed in here somewhere. Nope! So I walk home in the rain now hoping that I had wrecked the shit out of that bike in the previously mentioned accident.
The next day I tell the guy who owns the graphic design business below my apartment that his wife’s bike, which he’d loaned me, has been stolen. I volunteer to buy a replacement and almost pass out when his wife tells me how much the bike cost. She says I don’t have to buy a new one (it was a few years old and she never rode it), so that’s fair enough. I now look forward to an awkward shopping trip. There is a moral in here somewhere. A nice expensive moral.
* how I met this guy is another ridiculous story, but, strangely, it turns out he’s friends with my landlord.