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The Bicycle Thief

August 28, 2010

To protect the innocent (and the guilty) there are no pictures for this post. But also because I didn’t take any.

This is (I think) my last post about Sado.

So, if you have read the previous posts, you will know several important key pieces of information about Sado for this story. The most important, Yuki and I rented electric assist bikes (worth about $1000 each), we went to concerts at the top of a hill each night, and we were staying at a minshuku with two other girls we were assigned to share a room with. One other important piece of information that has come up in the past somewhere is that bike locks here are attached to the bike frame and just the lock just releases a rod that immobilizes the back wheel.

Day two of the concert, Saturday, Yuki and I went to the concert at the top of Shiroyama. We parked our bicycles just outside the shrine where everyone lines up. My bike was number 48, and Yuki’s 49, We were fairly slow coming down the mountain as we chose to wait out the rush/crowd of people going down as soon as the drumming finished, and instead were chatty with people at the top. We ended up chatting to several people who had been part of the fringe events, such as a tapdancer, a flutist and I forget who else.

At the bottom of the mountain, we went back to where our bikes were parked. We were both a bit tipsy, and each finishing off a can of “Slat” grapefruit chu-hai as we walked. There was only one bike. Number 49. Mine was nowhere to be found. We looked down in the ditch to see if it had been pushed/fallen in. Nope. We wandered around, not quite panicking as we were both feeling fairly laid back after the concert and drinks. No bike presented us with two problems: 1)we were probably on the hook for a substantial bill, and 2) no way to get back to the minshuku as we had already missed the last bus.

So, I went back to the concert exit and asked some of the men there what to do. They came, checked the ditch again, asked me obvious questions like “Did you leave the key in it?” “No, it’s here in my hand.” They all agreed they had seen the bikes parked there before the concert (there are a lot of those bikes on the island, all identical except their number and their key).

So, off Yuki and I headed to the police station to report it missing, meaning we missed the special dance performance through the streets. On the way we passed our roommate Satomi and told her what had happened. She was suitably concerned but went off to see the dancing.

So by this time Yuki and I have finished our “Slat” and we had put our cans in the front basket of her bike which she was pushing. We rolled up to the police station like that, which is a bit daft since it’s technically illegal to drink and bike here (although I’m pretty sure the reason they have the bikes for rent is precisely so people can).  There were rather a lot of police on Sado for Earth Celebration, and they had been ferried in from the mainland. I heard later there are normally only 2 officers in the town.

At the police station we were again asked the obvious questions such as “did you leave the key in it?” “No it’s here in my hand” and by this time we had even checked that the keys were not all the same or anything and sure enough my key didn’t work in Yuki’s bike.

Then, just as we are starting to fill out paper work, Satomi runs in. “My bike is gone too!!” she says. A veritable crime wave had apparently hit Sado. I was most afraid someone had thrown them in the back of a van and was going to take the midnight ferry and whisk them away.

What we didn’t know from where we sat in the police office was that officers, many of them, had been literally “deployed” throughout this little seaside town in a mass response to this bike theft crime wave. Satomi told them where she left her bike, and our other roommate Etsuko then found herself surrounded by seven officers who had come RUNNING down the streets towards her and searched the serial numbers of her bike and made her prove it was hers. The woman who owned the liquor store in front of which Etsuko was parked (and a friend of Etsuko’s) was pulled out of the bath to answer police questions.

Now, I’m not entirely sure what happened next, and I don’t really think anyone ever will be. This is my best estimation of it. Satomi was pretty tipsy. The best was she, who had not spoken a word of English to us all weekend, kept speaking to the police in English. She would talk to us in Japanese, and then look at them and say something like “My bike is missing.” Satomi put her key on the table. I looked at her key, I looked at my key. 48, 64. The dots were all in the same place. I handed them to one of the officers who said, “no, no, the keys are all different” until another one pointed out the serial numbers on the keys were the same.

The police who had Etsuko found bike 64 not too far away and called Satomi out. Yuki had also left the police at some point, so there I am alone. Turns out Satomi moved her bike and, I’m not sure if she forgot, or what, but there it was. So now the police want to know if I “forgot” I had moved my bike too. No. I came down the mountain and it was gone.

Then the mob of police investigating this crime “found” my bike. I believe it was next to Satomi’s but I’m really foggy on where it was. So it seems Satomi and Etsuko parked their bikes very near ours when they went into the festival. After the concert, while Etsuko was off watching the dancing, Satomi moved her bike. And then went back and thought she would kindly move Etsuko’s bike too. Of course, as Etsuko pointed out later, she didn’t have a key for Etsuko’s bike, so a bit of an odd thing to attempt. But she put her key in the bike she thought was Etsuko’s and moved it. Now, I’m not sure if she forgot she moved both of them, or how it was she ended up not being able to find her bike a very short while later.

So sum of it is, Satomi by fluke had the identical key to me, and managed to accidentally put it in my bike. What are the chances that two bikes have the same key, and that the tipsy girl who goes and manages to accidentally use it is your new roommate?

So everything worked out. I got my bike back. Police all over the town said hello to Yuki and I as we passed for the rest of our stay, and Satomi hid her face from them. And I had a bit of fun the next day moving Satomi’s bike around when I saw it parked on the street. I think she felt truly awful about the whole thing, but I wasn’t the least bit upset. I was just glad that the bike thief was an accidental one. And one of the loveliest people you could ever meet. I think to be fair, the chances of all those coincidences coming together are so astronomical, that she can’t be held completely responsible.

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