I’ve never been so torn with such polar feelings of anger and pity… you can decide what got the best of me but it all started when a bum stole 4 bags of cans from my elderly neighbour.
So, yesterday, I was in the kitchen and I hear this “smash” on the road. An unkempt (AKA bum) was struggling to fling 4 huge garbage bags full of recycling bottles & cans over his shoulder while riding his bike. He was struggling hardcore and fell off his bike while a pile of cans and a couple of bottles fell out of his bag(s) and smashed in the middle of the street. It was beyond struggling though, this joker was in a hurry.
I was thiking, “WTF?”, ran outside and said “you OK?”. He ignored me, scurried off down the road on his bike, and then I saw my elderly neighbour run out into the middle of the road yelling something at him.
This stuff reeked of sketch so I ran over to the elderly neighbour to find out what happened. Sure enough, someone came through his gate, into his backyard, and ripped off 4 bags of recycling cans & bottles probably worth about 25 bucks.
In my bare feet, I booted back to my shed, whipped out my 1 speed cruiser bike for the first time this year and started chasing after this joker. It didn’t end up serving me so well though because as I booked it down the Mission Creek Greenway the chain fell off 3 times so I didn’t think I’d ever be able to catch him… but I did…
…and when I was within about 60 feet of him, I called the cops and said “listen, I’ve got the thief within about 60 feet of me… I’m about to confront him and I’m wondering what you are going to do”.
“Well”, they just said, “I wouldn’t advice approaching him, but I can’t tell you what to do… we’ll call you when we’ve got time”… so I decided to approach this bottle thief.
I biked up to him and said, “Hey, where did you get all these bottles from?”.
“I found them”, he replied.
I said, “Huh, that’s funny, because there’s an elderly man up the road who said someone on a bike just stole 4 bags of bottles from his backyard”.
He said, “Well, I ain’t got 4 bags of bottles”.
So I counted them (out loud) to him: “Hmmmmm, one, two, three, four – four bags of bottles” and I proceeded to grab one of the bags.
He then grabbed it from my hands and said get the f*** out of here and don’t touch my f***in’ property to which I responded, “I’m not touching YOUR property…these bottles belong to an old man up the road from my house from which you stole them”.
“F*** off” and a pile of other nice phrases were uttered from him as he biked off into the more secluded greenway trails. I followed him, continuing to plague him with guilt-heavy phrases like “So, how do you feel about stealing from an old man” as he struggled to keep all of the bags balanced on his back. About a minute later he got off his bike, dropped the bags and turned towards me at which time I thought, “Oh right, this is about the time where he beats the s**t out of me for giving him a hard time & I end up dead in a van down by the river”.
Turns out he just had a flat tire. So he ditched his bike in the woods and then instructed me “Don’t steal my bike” to which I replied, “I’m not here to steal YOUR property, just to take what back what you stole”.
He was clearly not happy that I was around and ended up booting across Springfield Rd. on foot dropping words (that nobody under 13ish should be hearing) at me right after I shot a couple of quick pictures of him struggling to carry these bags away to the recycling depot.
I ended up calling the cops back to update them on the situation but one of the coolest things about this whole situation happened at the end.
As I got home, my kids were anxiously waiting for me at the curb asking “Papa, did you catch him?”. I took my kids to my newly acquainted, elderly neighbour who got ripped off and filled him in on the shenanigans that happened. While talking to this poor old Quebec-native I felt a nudge from God to give him whatever was in my wallet. I heard him talking about the fact that he had collected those bottles for a month in order to earn a little extra spending and gas money so I ended up just giving him 10 bucks (all the bills I had on me) and it ended up being an incredibly miraculous experience for him. He refused to accept the money at first but we all agreed that he should take the money and spend it on a nice coffee or something. So with smiles, he accepted the two five dollar bills and agreed to have his picture taken.
In retrospect, if I wasn’t afraid of the 50-year-old bottle-stealing soul, I could have brought this confrontation to fisticuffs but it was one of the only times in my life that I’ve ever been on the bad side of a street guy. I’ve always been buddies with these types of characters so it was really weird to be torn between this feeling of wanting justice for my elderly neighbour and pity on a street-guy who was perfectly OK with lying to me & stealing from an old guy.
It’s always good to get your heart beating quickly for a while even though I’m still trying to figure out what the moral of the story is…
On my way home, I called one of my best buds Jeremy who suggested I take his bike and grind it into 2 pieces with a metal saw. I also considered throwing it into the creek but I had given him my word that I wouldn’t touch his property.
In the spirit of cliches, what would you have done?