7.17.2007

what is our responsibility?



what is our responsibility?
what is our civic duty?

I ask myself
what is my responsibility?
what is my civic duty?
what should I do when I see a crime being commited?
how involved should I get?
should I get involved?
should I go hide behind the shades and watch from the shadows?
should I call the police?
should I be pro-active and shoo a thief away before they get a chance to cause some damage or grab some goods?
what should I do?

these are some basic questions
chances are we already have the responses programed in our system
we ourselves do not know how we will respond
but... already within us is a binary code that directs our response
that code was written by a combination of how we were brought up and how we have responded to the world

tonight I was rolling home slow and social
was not feeling at all like a ride
snapped a few shots from the camera dangling around my neck
rolled slowly around town towards home
pretty much direct
considered going longer
then thought about home and the threat of rain

just blocks from home I saw a man with a shopping cart
I had seen this same man in the early am
here it was the end of the day and I see him again
his day must have been busy
as when I saw him this morning his metal shopping cart was empty
now here it is quitting time and his shopping cart is full

stereos, televisions, dvd players, some large white stuffed animals maybe a siberian tiger and a massive teddy bear, then there on top of it all was an orange specialized mountain bike... v-brakes... not well worn... flat tires... but plenty of knobs on the tires

my binary code dictates my response
I approach the man all the while on my bicycle
his english is not good
I am not sure how much he understands
I do not feel like trying out my spanish
in a quick bluff I try to scare him off with a motion to call the police
the threat does not scare him
he calls my bluff
I pull out my cell and call 911

the man is patient as we discuss things
he does not try to run
he asks if the bicycle is mine
I tell him no
then I point to the registration and tell him that this sticker identifies the owner of the bicycle
the police answer the emergency line... this is a non-emergency

while talking with the police officer on the phone I continue my arguement with the man with the shopping cart
the report has been filed
an officer has been dispatched to the location
there is no estimate on how long before a cruiser heads over to 18th Street between Newton and Monroe
some more time passes
the man starts to push his cart
I have no arguement with his moving
he has a right to move
I never told him he had to stop
his moving seemed like a good chance to get us closer to the main strip where there most certainly should be a flat foot or a cruiser

in our broken spanish discussion I come to understand that he is fine with talking with the police
he claims it is his friends bike... the registration will tell whose bicycle this really is
he is headed towards the main strip to help me find an officer
which is fine with me
this bicycle is clearly "gray market"
he may not have stolen it
his friend may not have stolen it
but it is a stolen bicycle
a thousand dollar specialized with SPDs does not look like a machine that would suit his needs, his tastes, or his budget

I start snapping pictures of this man as I roll along side him down 18th Street
cars honk and pass the man in the cart along side the man on the bicycle
it is not clear who is more crazy
the man with the cart starts yelling and ranting
or the guy in his racing kit snapping pictures as he steers his bike with one hand
in broken english some words are picked up
CRAZY THIS
CRAZY THAT
i am still not sure who is more crazy
me or him
not sure who he is calling crazy

he pulls up his shirt and shows me what looks like the hydration pack of a camelback
it is a colostomy bag
he waves his arms around and looks away as I snap some pictures
the card is full
no more pictures

as we get close to Lamont Park on Mount Pleasant Street I roll forward towards the 7-11 leaving him behind
NO CRUISER
NO FLATFOOT
just like the saying goes... where is a cop when you need one?
I go back and talk with the man some more
consider swapping out the memory card for a fresh card to get a photo of the registration
but I feel that I have done enough
the situation was awkward
I question my actions
an algorythm goes through my head
I weight my loss to gain
sure I am trying to contribute to the community by halting a theft and returning a bicycle
but is this really my responsibility?

yes... this is all more relevant with my wife's bicycle having been stolen not even two weeks prior
this man is clearly a vulture
the cart full of electronics looks like stuff salvaged from trash cans
some things newer than others
it is not clear if he is a thief
just a scavanger
but a scavanger with an expensive bicycle with a registration sticker

I vacate the scene making another 911 call
giving the new location and the information about the cart full of electronics and the bicycle

yes...
I saw this man with an empty cart in the morning
then I see this same man with a full cart in the evening
had he filled this cart and emptied it several times through the day
or was this his full score from the day
?

again I question my actions
now I have to see this man
I will surely see him again
next time I will see him with his cart and with his friends
this morning I saw him with two others
one on one discussions are uncomfortable enough
this situation with two more bodies would leave me preferring to be wearing running shoes rather than cycling cleats

I return home wondering what came of the man in the park with the shopping cart
wondering of the police ever met up with him
regretting my actions

again not knowing my responsibility?

in hindsight...
I should have got a better shot of the registration and devoted less time to the incident


4 comments:

Marc said...

when i lived in nyc, I saw a guy trying to break into a car near where I went to school. I turned and went back to the main road to look for a cop (historical note to kids: 10 years ago few of us had cell phones!).

the guy calmly comes up and asks: "why are you looking for a cop?" me: " because you are breaking into a car" . him: "is it yours?" (this is all calm as can be... ) me: "no"
him: "then why do you care?" me: "well, it could happen to me"
him: "i don't care if I go back to jail" etc. all very surreal.. I don't think I ever saw a cop, I just gave up after a while. marc g

Euan said...

Just a side note - calling 911 for non-life threatening emergencies is bad. It's largely MPD & the city's fault for not publicizing the non-emergency number, but here it is:
202-737-4404
They also claim 311 works, but I've never had it function from a cell phone.

Dr. Logan said...

I've called the cops from a distance while watching break-ins twice. You went above and beyond with shopping cart guy. Yeah, a shot of the registration would be good, but hindsight is 20/20. The cops were too busy busting cyclists who roll through stop signs, no doubt.

wolfey said...

Moral of the story: People who don't lock up their bikes should elect leaders who will increase taxes and fix healthcare so that guys with serious disabilities don't have to steal bikes to survive.