Now, mind you, I've seen what appeared to be my bike 1,022 times in the past two weeks. In fact, it's amazing how much every bike that has ever been produced in the history of bikes looks like mine from a distance.
But no. This one was really mine. A 26-inch black Mongoose mountain bike with a black and red seat. And it was just sitting there in front of the Lockport Public Library — less than 100 feet from where it had been stolen in the early morning hours of Oct. 18, when it was unceremoniously plucked from in front of the Lockport Family YMCA, where I had diligently locked it to the bike rack a few hours prior.
Well, truth be told, it wasn't just sitting there. It was being propped up by some teenage punk who was sitting atop it — surrounded by six other teenage punks, each with his own bike — or each with someone else's bike they had stolen as well.
"Be cool, Leffler," I told myself. Yes, even I refer to myself by just my last name. It's a learned habit I suppose.
I had been thinking for two weeks what exactly I would do if I ran across someone on my bike. What if they were on it? What if they were riding it? What it if was just sitting in a pile of bikes somewhere unattended? What if it was locked to a bike rack somewhere? I played out all the scenarios in my head as I ran across all the bikes that looked like mine from a distance but then weren't up close.
I had a specific plan for what to do if someone was sitting on it in a stationary position. It was a little dicey and could result in injury if I didn't pull it off right. But ...
So I acted as though I was simply walking by, weaving through the seven kids on bikes until I was directly behind mine and close enough to touch it. I reached out my right hand and grabbed the back wheel, lifting it up off the ground — completely freaking out the aforementioned punk. (Side note: As I'm now 40, I feel it is well within my rights to refer to teenagers as "punks." I'm at least another decade away from being able to use "whippersnappers," though.)
So this kid says, "What the (expletive) are you doing to my bike?"
"Actually, it's my bike," I said back. And you can either walk now or I can call the cops."
"What makes you think it's your bike?" he asked back.
"Well, it's my bike. That's my old lock hanging off it. And right there (points with free hand — the one not keeping the rear tire in the air, preventing him from taking off with my bike) is part of what used to be the back light. I see you got the front light off, though."
"My friend gave me this bike a week ago," he said. Mmm hmm. Likely story.
"Well then your friend stole it from me and as I said, I'll gladly call the police to come settle this," I said, adding, "Look, I'm 40 years old (I find if I repeat it often, it helps to cope). So I'm not going to steal a bike from some kid. But I'm also not going to let some kid steal my bike. So? Shall I dial 911?"
The kid — sorry, punk kid — got off my bike and headed east on East Avenue, surrounded by his punk friends.
When they were far enough away, one of them turned around and yelled, "We'll just steal it back!"
Good luck with that, kid.
Scott Leffler is a 40-year-old writer and part-time superhero. And he was touched by the number of people that have taken time out of their day in the past two weeks to ask about his bike. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.
This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.