So anyway, I rode my bike to Mac (the Japanese abbreviation) and when I went to park my bike I bumped in to one of my old students. "How are you?" - "... 'How are you'...?... I'm-fine-thank-you-and-you"- "Oh, I'm good, thanks. I'll study now." - "Oh! Do you remember my name?!" - "...No! I'm sorry. Tell me again." There was some more conversation in there too, but the point is, somewhere in that timeframe, I managed to forget to take my key out of my bike lock.
Normally, it's not a big deal if I forget to take my key out. This is Omura, the place where I had my dropped wallet returned to me not once, but twice, with nothing missing. Granted bike theft is about the extent Omura's crime (this came from the police officer's own mouth), McDonald's, Aeon (a shopping center) and the bike parking lot in front of the station, are often prime targets for the bikeless wandering "hoodlum" kids that have somewhere to go and only their feet to take them. Or maybe his friends all have bikes and he didn't feel like running along side of them (I see this a lot). The stolen bikes are usually just tossed aside somewhere else in the city.
I should have seen the foreshadowing a few weeks ago when I walked out of the community center to find a junior high school boy just sitting on my bike talking to his friends. He wasn't planning on stealing it, or even riding it, but it was a pretty awkward situation.
Back to the story, I walk out of Mac a couple hours later, to find my bike gone. Well, shoot. It was pretty late, so I'd just have to report it in the morning. Which I did.
I walked into the nearby koban (mini-police station) and told them what happened. I registered my bike when I bought it, a measure taken so that in case it did get stolen, there would be official record of it. It's also a way for cops to check and make sure people aren't stealing bikes at night. I once took my bike from the station and an officer cross referenced my name and registration just to make sure it was mine.
I knew this process would take a long time, so I left two and half hours before I had to catch a bus out of town. I didn't think it would actually take that long though. And so the saga begins.
First both of the working officers come out from the back office and start taking down my information. Name, address, job place, etc. Then I explained the what, when and where of the incident. Notes were taken and then they got out the official documents. We went over my personal info again, and then I described my bike. Every detail. Not just the maker, name, and color, but also the color of the basket, the style of gears, how many gears, "where is the name of the bike written?" "what's that part of the bike called, anyway?" and the position of the Omuran-chan stickers I stuck to it. The other officer in the mean time was typing all of this into the computer. He clearly did not know the alphabet keyboard very well because typing "Cecelia" (the name of the bike) took about 4 tries. Oh wait, that was supposed to be in capital letters, let me do it again, CECELIA. Then because my bike is teal, there was some fuss about whether they should circle blue or green on the form.
Then it was my turn to fill out my name, address and job on the official form. Thank goodness I can write it myself, but too bad I messed up my job title because then he had to redo that paper, staple it to the old version and I had to fingerprint it to verify that I was present when this new form was filled out. I made a mistake on the next one as well, but this time I just fingerprinted the mistake instead. I have an inkan (name stamp, which you can usually use for mistakes), but since it's in katakana (the writing format used for foreign words/names), they called the main station who told them they can't accept that- only kanji inkans. This is also when I learned that police officers have a special pouch in their vests for inkan cases.
Forty minutes, three forms, and 4 calls to the main station to verify different things (whether to write my name in English or katakana, etc) later, it's time to go check out the "crime scene."
They police officers are really nice guys and asked me questions about my life in Japan and where I'm from, the usual. They seemed pretty excited to be driving the first police car I've ever ridden in. I sat in the back seat where I was surprised to find no seat belts. I thought this was strange. Granted, it's only law for the front seat, but not even having them in the backseat? in a police car? Odd.
When we got to Mac, it was crowded, so they did a common move here of just stopping, not in a parking space. When I got out of the car, my back lightly bumped the side view mirror of this other car, that apparently had someone in it. When I say lightly bumped, I mean, it was so light I barely felt it.
While I was showing one officer where my bike had been and he was measuring distances (it seemed pretty arbitrarily), the man in the car started telling the second officer that I hit his mirror with the police car's door. When the second officer came over, he asked me about it and I essentially said, "The police car has sliding doors, it would be physically impossible for me to hit that man's mirror." The guy in the car was being aggressive and rude to the police officers, clearly just being a ****. I could tell they were just trying to appease him and were on my side. He eventually just left, but because it was an "accident," the traffic accident team had to come and take more seemingly arbitrary measurements and pictures, even though the guy was gone. There were more official forms too, but they didn't involve me in this new incident any further, since it was a bunch of bullsh*t to begin with, except taking a picture of my back where it touched the mirror.
Finally, it was all done. Instead of taking me back to the koban though, they offered to drive me to the airport, from where my bus was leaving. A free ride to airport, sweet. On the way there, while waiting at a red light, three of my 6th grade boys walked by. When they saw me in the back of the van, they waved, but then realized I was in the back of a police car and their jaws dropped, eyes widened and they looked panicked. The officer rolled down his window and told them I wasn't in trouble and all three of them clutched their hearts and I could seem them sigh with relief. It was very cute. I can't wait to go to school on Tuesday and find all of my students talking about it and all of my teachers asking me about it. At least maybe I can get word of my missing bike out and increase my chances of recovery!
I'm not going to say I'm glad my bike was stolen, but I am kind of glad that I had this wacky experience. I'll definitely be remembering this one.
(I am indefinitely borrowing by friend's extra bike, so I am still mobile.)