Once upon a time, I stole a bike. Sort of.
It was a weekend morning in the spring of 1990 and I was walking from my apartment on East Norwich Avenue in Columbus to the Ohio State football ticket office, which I believe was in French Field House at the time. Spring is when you buy your discounted student football ticket at Ohio State, and in those days, you had to do it in person. I was almost there, around some bike racks near some dormitories, in the area now occupied by the College of Business.
That's when I saw it - a bike I had to have. It wasn't even locked to the rack, and it was so early there was hardly anyone around. You certainly didn't have to worry about security cameras in those days. So I hopped on the bike and took off. I had it back at my apartment in just a few minutes. Then I walked back to the ticket office and bought my ticket. I figured it was a little too soon to be riding around that same area on the bike.
You know there's going to be more to the story. The reason I had to have that particular bike was that it was in fact my bike. Or, it had been my bike, depending on your point of view. It was a beat-up 10-speed I'd had since high school and had brought down to campus the previous spring. I'd stored it, chained and locked, on the bike rack in front of Taylor Tower where I lived.
During the two- or three-week break between spring quarter and summer quarter, I'd left the bike on the rack in front of Taylor, but when I'd come back to campus for summer classes, it was gone. I had heard there was a campus rule against leaving bikes on the racks during breaks, so maybe the campus police cut the chain and took it away. But it's not like there was a sign to that effect. It's also possible that someone just stole it. At that time all over campus you'd see front wheels chained to racks but with the rest of the bike stolen, because people had run the chain only through the wheel and not the frame of the bike. Or, at the kind of rack where you set the front wheel into a big slot, some idiot would lean on the bike until the wheel bent, so there were these old, rusty bent front wheels all over the place.
I also seem to remember that the campus police would sell bikes they'd confiscated for not having a sticker or whatever, so maybe someone had paid the police for my bike. But I might be remembering incorrectly about that.
Anyway, someone had my bike for almost a whole year. The day I was going to the ticket office, I spotted the bike and knew it was mine, not just someone's similar bike, because there was a rip in the seat that I'd fixed with some of that sneaker repair goo that comes in a tube. It was definitely mine. I had the bike all that summer, but not long after, it got stolen again, this time for good. I didn't have another bike until spring of the next year, when my girlfriend (wife-to-be) bought me a nice mountain bike for my birthday. Wisely, I chained the bike frame itself, not the wheel, to the rack outside my apartment, but they just stole the wheel. Eventually someone came with a bolt cutter and took the rest of the bike, too. It is as if people considered bikes to be communal property.
So, overall I left Ohio State down two bikes. But it felt good getting the first bike back for a while. It halfway felt like stealing, so it was kind of exciting when I took off on it, but how can you steal your own bike? Just because I hadn't seen it in a year didn't make it any less my bike, did it? Who the hell knows.