Columbus is the country’s biggest small town.
You might say that about your town too. (Even large cities have pockets that feel small, where “everybody knows your name,” to cite the “Cheers” song.)
This big small town helped me out once more.
For nine days, my bicycle was missing. Her name is Miss Ruby. I bought her in 2013 for about $1,500, after having a bike stolen in 2011 and another in 2013. Yes, it’s an expensive habit.
Miss Ruby either fell off my bike rack on the evening March 2, or she was taken from it. I’ll never know. That night I cried to my husband, “She’s cold and she’s in a crack house!”
I don’t know that, of course. I do know that someone got her and by the next day tried to sell her at Arnold’s Bike Shop on Hilton Avenue, and at the original location on Warm Springs Road. With no luck, the man took her to a pawn shop on Manchester Expressway. No sale.
That same morning, I filed a police report. I also alerted Ride On Bikes, from which I bought Miss Ruby in 2013. The manager Jason McKenzie began spreading the word. He also loaned me a bike to use.
Word spread to the other bike shops. While I was out seeing patients, I got a call from Jason that Miss Ruby had been sighted around Hilton Avenue and Manchester Expressway. I went on a little chase. I visited several other pawn shops. A woman told me they get reports every Monday about stolen bikes, so I thought I’d know something in a few days.
Meanwhile, Jeff Gordy at Arnold’s had the man’s number from his caller ID. He shared it with the police.
An officer assigned to the case called me several times through the week with updates. I’m grateful for him.
But little did I know that the man who took Miss Ruby posted her on a website the morning of March 3. Another local man bought her for $450. On March 9, the second person put her up for sale on Craigslist for $650. I’d checked Craigslist a few times since March 2 but gave up after awhile. However, through the beauty of social media, a college friend out in Washington spotted the Craigslist posting. (Thanks, Amanda!) I immediately sent an email to the seller and he wrote right back. By March 10, we arranged a time to meet on March 11. I called the police.It should be noted here that Jeff Gordy from Arnold’s has a background in law enforcement. In addition to being passionate about cycling, he is passionate about fighting crime. I talked to him the morning of March 11, as he had contacted the Columbus Police Department. I also talked to a CPD sergeant who explained how it would unfold. Instead of having to face the man alone, followed by the police, some undercover law enforcement met with the man. One woman pretended to be me. My husband Michael and I watched the scene from the parking lot in a shopping center. It was surreal to see Miss Ruby being checked over. At one point, the women got back in their car and drove away. I went a little ballistic. But the seller stayed in his car. We later figured they went to get some cash. Soon after, a police car pulled up. Lights flashed and the whole bit. There were about three officers, plus the sergeant I’d been talking to. The guy who bought Miss Ruby didn’t fit the description of the first guy so that was a little confusing. The sergeant called me. He told me that this man’s story seemed to line up– that he often buys things online and turns around to make a profit on another website. They were letting him go. That was fine with me. My main focus was always getting my bike back.
Eventually Michael and I got out and talked to the sergeant. As it turns out, he, too, is a bike rider. Really nice guy. He helped us load up to get Miss Ruby home. We thanked him profusely. Of course, I immediately took her out for a spin. It’s raining today. But yesterday’s weather was glorious. Everything is starting to bloom.
Y’all. Clearly our town is big enough to have murderers and rapists. It’s not Mayberry. I know that a stolen bicycle is low on the police priority list. I know that. The police know that. But several things worked in my favor: law enforcement who clearly care; family and friends who were looking out for me; and good old-fashioned communication. Small towns are underrated.