Tempting risk

“Hey!” I yelled. “Hey!”

Several weeks ago, I got a hybrid bike to replace the three bikes that were stolen from my garage in mid-May. As a result though, I am hyper sensitive to my bike being stolen. Even when properly locked. (Side rant: being well-locked doesn’t prevent thievery, because they all carry the tools to break those things. what matters is the location of where the bike is stored.)

But because of certain circumstances like scheduling and unexpected meetings at an offsite, I decided to bike from work to the focus group session on 3rd and Brannan. Yes, I could have asked if I could bring my bike inside, but I had no intention to stay very long. I wanted to observe briefly and then take off.

And so that’s where it began. When I got to the corner, I looked around for a bike rack. The closest valid one (beyond meters) was across the street with the typical u-shaped metal thing built into the ground. I had switched to a small u-lock lately, because it was the only lock that I had left…but unfortunately, it doesn’t wrap around the bike very well. So I struggled with it and the cable wrapping the lock eventually only around the backwheel (because it wouldn’t even fit across the frame). But I knew that the seat wasn’t even secured. I hoped that nothing would happen.

Time ticked. I had a free meal (which partly was the reason that I went apart from the fact that I wanted to learn from the participants). Then I felt that I had reached my time limit. Because I was quite conscious about my bike left in broad daylight, left to the open forces. So I left and bounded down the stairs.

You see, 3rd street is very crowded. Not quite sure where everyone is going. Perhaps it’s AT&T park. Perhaps it’s everyone heading somewhere on caltrain. Whatever it is. There are a lot of pedestrians, which seemed mostly to be office workers.

Exiting into the broad daylight at 7 pm, I breathed easily as I saw that my bike was still whole. I started walking toward the crosswalk when I saw a guy on a bike quickly go up to my bike and move his hand close to my seat.

“HEY!” I yelled and started sprinting. “HEY!”

By this point, he had my entire seat in his hand.

“Give me my seat back!” I yelled as loud as I could.

He was startled, because it was obvious that he thought he was going to get away with it. He held it in his hand high above his head as if he was going hit me. He had dark wavy hair just below his chin. A hat and baggy pants. And some mountain bike. Now I wish that I took a picture.

“I could hit you…” he said.

I glared. “Give me back my seat.”

“Okay, okay, here’s your seat.” Interestingly, he placed it back into my bike tube.

Then he left. I glanced at the nearby white women who looked at the situation with a combination of surprise and exasperation. When the guy left, one woman commented, “Did you know him?”

“No! He was trying to steal my bike seat!”

“Oh my god, I didn’t realize. I am so sorry. Does that happen? I wouldn’t have known. I just didn’t know. I would have done something if he hit you.”

“Yes,” I said. “it does happen very frequently. But no worries..it’s not like you would have known. Just that when you see someone with a bike, they shouldn’t be taking things from other bikes. Just watch out for that.”

Then I continued unlocking my bike. Their uber arrived and the women got in.

Sign of privilege

The twentysomething kid tumbled out of the car nearly crying. At first, I was judgmental—a gangbanger who lacked respect for authority and rules—who most of all, at that moment, had fled when he rear-ended my car on the freeway.

We caught up and then there it was.

But I softened up when I saw his age. His declarations that he was poor, wearing a Kennedy high school lanyard, wearing a pikachu watch, a spiderman t-shirt. He said that his car was named Sally. He said that he was regretful. He now wanted to do the right thing. He a made a mistake, driving under the influence, driving without insurance or a license. As we spoke at the side of the road, blocking a whole lane of traffic, he was pleading, his hands high, and his mouth turned into a frown. Mercy, he said.

Later, he told me that he was poor. He couldn’t even afford groceries. And yet. That he didn’t have a bank account.

What could I do in the face of all of this? I am privileged that when I was 19 and rear-ended a car (at 5 mph), the only punishment I had was that my parents were furious that I wasn’t paying attention and my premiums went up. But my parents helped me out since I didn’t necessarily have the money. I am also privileged to believe that the world requires hard work, but I am also quite aware that my access to funds, to a lifelong method of diligence and grit, and a lasting support system…that is privilege. I know that if I ever ran out of personal funds, I have people to turn to who would support me. Friends, family…even acquaintances. Because I have proven my worth in other ways.

Does this kid have that kind of access? With my limited scope, he doesn’t. I made a suggestion that he sell the phone so that he could cough up the money that he owes me for the damage. But in doing so, I am taking away something that is truly helping him.

I am a progressive like the next San Francisco resident. I believe that it’s sad that the homeless are on the street. But I also believe that they are more likely to find illegal ways to find money—stealing bikes or electronic devices and reselling all of them. But they’re doing what it takes.

I told the kid that he has to pay for the damage. But I stopped myself from being cruel and demanding. Because it’s not that I want him to be homeless. I don’t want to be the cause of that. I want him to learn a lesson, especially from the mercy I gave. I don’t want to be the reason why he starts to hate the government and the world, because I took the money from him. I want to give the kid the hope that he can do better next time.

Air Filter

Sometimes I marvel my air filter. I imagine that it sits there and the air flies in, as if drawn by a magnet. Through the filter, the air shakes off the dirt accumulated through days, months, years, and then it flings out all clean, shedding weight.

Does the air feel now pure as it circulates around the room, free as a bird, pure as a new baby’s bottom as it swings toward me. Into my nostrils into my own personal filter and down into my lungs where it does some chemical reaction that helps me body live?

Then, what has the air witnessed? Has it swirled around above the lies that we tell? The lies we tell to others and ourselves? The secrets that we see and swear never to tell a single soul until one day while in the bathroom, guilt and shame creeps up and open the door?

What does the air know?

I sit in my bed, resting against a pillow and the hard wall. This wall scratches easily, marks from shoes, from things that touch the wall. The air brushes against it too, but it does nothing. The air is a silent, gentle partner. Neutral, willing, soft, gentle. It never does anything. It only goes where the wind blows. It vibrates for sounds. It provides the oxygen and carbon dioxide that we, plants, animals need. And it moves up and down the temperature.

Swirling with no care in the world.

Things to remember about Vegas (in the month of June)

(While I endure the sorta illegal fireworks going on in my neighborhood — happy fourth!)

  • Whatever you do, try to remain indoors with the incredible AC. If you walk outside, make it short. Because later, your skin will thank you. As well as your lungs. As well as your muscles. As well as your thin thin mucus skin (aka nose)
  • Vegas only wants you to eat and hang out at the pool during this month. Boring.
  • Food is no longer cheap. It’s land of getting whatever you want. At good quality. Especially the price.
  • Eat Japanese. It’s really good here. Obviously because nearly every city in America (and some select international cities) have direct flights here. Resulting in a diverse clientele and their needed requirements.
  • Shows are great. Just select the right ones.
  • Take the monorail. Trams or whatever.
  • Buffets? Go during off peak hours. Then you stay past the time limit. Also remember to eat as little carbs as possible. Don’t waste your stomach space on that!
  • Really think carefully why you’re going to vegas. Because it’s just a town for a certain type of person. If you’re not that type of person, minimize your time.