Of course he was very upset and he was looking for a ride home when he called me. There was no point in doing the Twenty Questions bit over the phone so I got in the car and headed to Civic Center to bring him home. Civic Center in San Francisco is the black hole to which, as some comedian used to say, every freak, weirdo, drug addict, cult member and actor would eventually be drawn. Cameron just wanted to go home and feel sorry for himself but I wanted to look around. It seemed a good idea to just ask some folks if they had seen anything. It was obvious most had been there all day and Cameron's bicycle is unusual, not in the least part because it is HUGE (he is 6'5"+).
I approached a group of teens who spend the day in the area skateboarding and jumping their BMX bikes. They see everything because no one thinks kids are paying attention. I gave them a description of the bike and told them it was worth $150 if they found it. One of them took me up on it. Two of his friends kept whispering to each other, they knew something. I had a feeling we may just be in luck.
Next we looked for a police officer. The beat cops in Civic Center know all the bike thieves. Just as we had hailed a police car and started filing a report I got a phone call. I almost didn't answer it but boy am I glad I did! The boys had found the bike, two blocks away! The officer got in his car and said he would meet us there and Cameron and I took off across UN Plaza with a fire under us. Somehow the officer missed the spot (it turned out that even though the bicycle was in full view, it was at an odd angle from the street and its more distinguishing features were not obvious) and I wasn't willing to let Cameron's bicycle get away. The guy sitting in front of it was obviously under the influence of something, a lot smaller than I and very much in the wrong. He had put a seat bag and a Kryptonite cable on the bike to make it seem more legit. He had also covered it with dirt so it would look more like him.
Much like Andre the Giant, I can be the Brute Squad if necessary. I wanted Cameron's bicycle and I was going to get it. So I stepped over the guy, grabbed the bicycle saddle and said
-"Thank you for watching my bicycle!". The guy looked at me and said
-"That's my bicycle. I bought it 9 months ago." I leaned on the top tube and said
-"No you didn't." I wanted to keep him talking so the cops could show up and nab him. His next statement was
- "Can you prove it is yours, lady? 'Cause I just bought it from someone."
-"Oh yes? That would be hard because it is mine."
-"Well I am not going to argue with you. You can have it but you have to pay me." He started trying to pack up his bag and get up, so I pulled out my phone to start taking pictures (my good camera got slammed into the ground last week when I got caught in the train tracks on Market St) and I told him
-"No. I am just taking my bike. You are getting nothing." The three boys who found the bike and several people from inside the dollar store we were in front of were watching at this point so this guy was getting frightened. He tried to grab the bike to take it back and I got in his way. I let him take his little bag off of it to slow him down, taking pictures of him the whole time so he would keep putting his hands in front of his face. As he started to run off, Cameron got in front of him and got a shot of his face, at which point the guy pulled a knife. Cameron let him walk off (although Cameron is blackbelt in Hapkido and well versed in knife defense and disarming people he knows the best defense is just walking away).
The only picture that kinda came out.
Of course he got away before the officer could catch up with us, BUT WE GOT CAMERON'S BICYCLE BACK!!!!! All of its parts, all of its pieces, everything. We had to buy a new lock on the way home (we are not sure how the guy broke Cameron's Bulldog U-lock in broad daylight in front of a high security State building, but he did), but that is OK with me. I had already gone straight to the ATM to get the boys (Adam, Mateo and Isaiah) their money. I parted with it happily as bicycles big enough for Cameron are hard to find. The boys were thrilled to get the money.
I told them if they hang out there like that they should make a business of bicycle recovery. They said even though they are there everyday I was the first person to ever ask them for help. Never underestimate the power of a motivated teenager or two! They see everything.