Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
I was tired of being strong.
It had been two weeks since our company’s cargo bike had been stolen. Two weeks of searching. Two weeks of fruitless leads. Two weeks of being constantly reminded by friends and family that your livelihood is missing each time they ask, “Any news?”
I was ready to call it in early for the day. I hadn’t been sleeping much (not due to stress, surprisingly), and had regularly been waking up at 4am to make our routine deliveries. Sleep deprivation had taken its toll, and a post-lunch siesta seemed well deserved.
As I got up to leave the office, Cherri Lakey of Anno Domini tagged me in a post on Facebook. Curious, I clicked through to find an intriguing post in the San Jose Downtown Dwellers group. Someone was looking for the person who posted about the missing cargo bike, saying they had a lead. I messaged the tipster directly post haste, and within minutes was sent a photo of someone working on an all too familiar cargo bike.
“That’s my fucking bike.” My spirits lift for the first time in weeks.
Of course, I was much more polite in addressing the individual who tipped me off, requesting as much information as they could provide. Within the hour, I had a name, address, and phone number for the person who took the picture, but only a name for the man in said photo. During this time frame, I not only distributed the photo across all of my personal and business social media channels, but also had a friend attempting to retrieve metadata from the picture.
As soon as the post hit social media, I received a call from the gentlemen who crafted our cargo bike, Lane Kagay. Lane had been supporting us from Venice Beach since 7am the morning of the theft and was quite possibly the only person more enraged than Amanda (Cowgirl's Co-Founder and CFO) and I about this bike being stolen.
“You know, it’s Grand Theft. Got a police report?”
“Call the cops. Update the report, and have them send someone out. We’re not letting them get away.”
I hung up with Lane and followed his advice. After waiting 45 minutes on hold, the police finally updated the report, but refused to take action, as we still didn’t have an address for where the alleged crime took place.
I was done. Too much for one day. At 1:30pm, I boarded our borrowed Box Bike and headed home. All through my ten minute journey, I kept receiving emails and notifications of people spreading the word, doing everything in their power to help reunite us with our missing cargo bike. Let them take over for a bit, I thought to myself. I can’t fight this battle alone, and I certainly can’t do it on empty.
As my head was hitting the pillow and safety of my bed, I noticed a message from Justin Triano of Ride ESSJ.
“Message me the name?”
- X took the photo. Y is in the photo.
“The guy working in the photo is Y?”
“Is there any way you can prove it’s your bike? Dents, stickers, etc.?
- That test saddle belongs to LDV. And we have the serial number.
“Try this.” Justin had changed the spelling of the last name and found a matching White Pages listing for Y. The next message that followed was a Google Street view of the driveway from the address matching the name.
It was the same driveway where the photo was taken. The house is five blocks down the very same street I live on.
- Headed over.
Sleep is for the damned. Full of great vengeance and furious anger, I mount the Box Bike once more and make like a bat out of hell. Within minutes, I’m at the house listed, and who should I see leave the property but the man from the fateful photo, riding a very neglected mountain bike.
My initial thoughts go to that of my messenger brethren. I imagine the reactions of Posi Bill and Anton, thirsting for a taste of u-lock justice. However, two and a half decades of mental conditioning courtesy of one Mexican-American Catholic Mother with a degree in Psychology wipe out the more aggressive voices and notions. “Cooler heads will always prevail”, she would remind me. I suppose it finally stuck, since my next move was to sit on the curb and do the reasonable thing: call the police. Another hour of being put on hold later, and I’m granted the opportunity to explain my situation. The dispatcher promises to send someone out “as soon as possible.” We all know what that means.
For the next few hours, I’m left sitting out on the curb; cold, hungry, and thirsty. The entire time, I’m granted the luxury of watching the supposed thief go in out of the house on his bicycle, completely oblivious to my presence. Within the first hour of this cat and mouse game, my phone reminds me that I have failed to charge it properly, and warns me that I have less than 10% battery life left. Unable to leave for fear of my bicycle resurfacing, I text Cayce Hill of Veggielution to call in a favor. An hour later, Emily Schwing (Veggielution's Program Manager) arrives via bicycle, with the necessary portable battery and cable to recharge my phone. No sooner do I plug in, does my phone ring. The dispatcher has some free cops and is sending someone over. I only had to wait another hour for someone to actually show up.
Cops are pack hunters, you see, they use coordinated attack patterns, especially when understaffed. Which is why it took me as no surprise when a team of two arrived out of a single car. I give them the low down on the situation, they in exchange give me the legal jargon (they can’t just barge in and go Dirty Harry, much to my dismay), and I return to my spot on the curb to wait. After forty minutes of knocking on the door to no response, and the searching of the outside of the house, a little old lady shows up. She talks to the cops, and allows them access to the interior. Twenty minutes later, the garage door swings open. The supposed thief isn’t home, but his mother apparently had no qualms about opening her house to two long arms of the law. My heart stops and I feel warmth best remembered as when my high-school sweetheart returned home after a four week vacation in Germany. The cops roll out our beautiful red cargo bike. And the world is good again.
In regards to our next steps, Amanda has begun to press charges against the individual who was last in possession of our cargo bike. We have reason to believe that this was not an isolated incident, and will ensure that the party responsible for stealing our bike is punished to the full extent of the law. Neither Amanda or I have any tolerance for bike thieves, let alone those who would dare pose a threat to our community.
The odds of recovering our cargo bike after two weeks of being missing was less than 1%. With the help of our cycling community, we were able to once again defy all odds and expectations set before us, and get back our livelihood. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to every single individual who posted, retweeted, or otherwise advertised and assisted us in tracking down our missing cargo bike.
Special thanks are in order for Alex Yasbek of Box Bike Collective and Lane Kagay of CETMA Cargo for seeing us through this trying time. These two amazing gentlemen moved heaven and earth for us, and serve as a shining examples of how the cycling community watches out for each other through thick and thin.
Thank you all so much. We are delighted and honored to be part of such a beautiful and loving community.
- Cain Ramirez, Co-Founder and CEO