Story of a stolen bicycle in OPortoLast modified 2022/09/07 20:22
I rode into the center of Oporta. Struggling up the narrow, ancient streets with my heavy bicycle. Passing by residençials (cheap hotels) that looked to run-down for me to stay in.
Finally I passed into a larger street and found the residençial indicated on my map, the Saint Antonio. The entrance gave on to a short corridor leading to a flight of steps to the first floor where the reception would be found.
I relunctantly left the bike in the corridor, I felt a familiar, slightly giddy, slightly sickening feeling as I left my bike unattended in the hall, but knew I would not be long and it was reasonably out of sight from the street. I bounded up the short flight of stairs to the reception.
“Speak English?” “Yes” “Do you have rooms?” “Yes” the guy smiled at me “Breakfast?” “No” “OK, thats fine. I’ll take it – oh, and I have a bicycle” “Yes” he smiled and pointed to the CCTV monitor where my bicycle could be seen beside a dark silohete of a man. I assumed he was squeezing past the bicycle to get into the Hotel – I even imagined this scenario. “Ah yes, there it is” I said, and looked back to the guy. “And do you have wifi” “Yes” “Great, I will go get my bike”
Here I looked back to the monitor but there was nothing there, just an empty corridor, all white.
I ran down the stairs and my own eyes confirmed what I had seen on the screen and my gut dropped – this had really happened. I ran out onto the street, looking up then down then choosing down I bounded down the street at full pace. Stopping. I shouted with all my voice:
“Bicycletta”. “Thief”, “My Fucking Bicycletta. Taken”
Everybody on the street turned around to face me with vacant, incomprehending faces. I continued to run down shouting.
“Fils de peutain”, “BICYCLETA”
I ran back up the street towards the hotel where a small crowd had gathered.
“This man says he saw your bicycle” a man reassured me “over there” “Up there” I said, in a relieved tone, expecting there to be a man just up the street holding my bicycle with a smile on his face. “Yes up there” I looked, nothing, “Up there??” “Yes” Not knowing the context in which my bike was “up there” I ran up the street as fast as I could, rouding the corner. Up? Down? Which way. I could see no bicycle. A police car rounded the corner. I ran against it and wrapped on the window. “You speak English”? “A litt” “My bicycle, stolen. Everything gone. Everything.”
Just then a lorry drove past and the driver shouted across to me
“I saw your bicycle down there”
I broke off from the police car and belted it down the street along side the lorry, another cross roads
“Which way” I implored, but the lorry carried on. And I carried on. I kept running, the feeling of dread becoming more complete as the minutes passed by and I passed from the public who were aware of my situation into the public who were not. Who were going about their business and could not understand the man in the bicycle helmet running as fast as he could with a dread look on his face. My bicycle shoes clicked and clacked metalically on the pavement, my arms were pumping left and right, I was running and I was looking, but I did not know where I was running to. I had no bike. It was gone. Everything was gone.
(I will have to walk from now on)
My body was tense my jaw was locked. My passport, my money, my computer, my bike, EVERYTHING was gone. It was incomprehensible. I was in the middle of portugal and all I had was the clothes I was standing in,
“I am going to kill this guy”
I ran into a high street, I looked down onto a sea of people. The street was thick with people, you could not run. Fuck. Fuck. I ran back, retracing my steps from earlier, running down the same narrow streets with the same residençials that looked so poor and I came upon the central square in Portugal I ran into the middle. I had nowhere else to go. I made two steps in one direction, two steps in the other
“FILS DE PUTAIN”
I karate kicked a tree, I punched a lampost.
A lorry driver shouted abuse at me
“BICYCETTA” I shouted back at him “BICYCLETA”
I didn’t understand his response but it sounded like “I don’t care about you or your bicycle”
I saw another police car, I ran over, I explained to them,
“I don’t speak very good Inglish” he said “Go to station over there, next to Tourist office”
I ran in the direction that he had indicated, a women stood outside of a bank staring at me, dumbfounded:
“Are you OK?”
“My bicycle.. stolen .. everything”
“Parle français?” she asked, I explained to her in French what had happened as she guided me to the police station.
At the police station they asked me to calm down and established that I was english (not dutch) and explained that the first police car I had stopped was still waiting for me outside the Hotel.
“We wait – there are cars out there looking for your bike. We wait, then we make the report” he said, making the “wait” sound like a formality.
“Have you got anybody in the UK you want to contact?”
“No” I replied, “No, I don’t want to contact anybody yet”
“You should cancel your cards”
“Yes, I ..”
“This is the number” he dialed, “here”
It was the mastercard number, I tried to explain that I didn’t have a mastercard, but they reassured me
“Is the right number”
I finally got through to an operator, who duly informed me that this was indeed the mastercard line, and she put me through to the Visa line and then the phone cut off.
“It was the wrong number” I said to the police chief. They were incredulous but after some discussion they handed me a number for Visa.
“Hello, yes, my card has been stolen”
“I am very sorry to hear that sir” the north american operator responded,
Just then the police tried to get my attention.
“Hold on a second” I said, looking at the policeman.
“Your bike – they have found something, do not cancel your card, maybe it is still on the bicycle.
We waited, they had found a bike. Not necissarily my bike, a bike.
“What colour was it” I asked after 15 minutes, during which time I sat with my head bowed in consternation.
“It was pink” said one of the officers
“It is your bike no?”
I looked straight at him for a few seconds
“Heeeey - funny guy” I responded and we all laughed.
I felt nothing when the police car finally arrived and I saw my bike being taken out, I went outside to bring it in, taking stock of it. Three bags, the handlebar bag. One bag missing. All bags open. We took it inside the station and I inspected the bags and confirmed what I expected to see, no laptop, all electronics gone, sleeping bag and camping gear gone (except for tent, still on back of bike), money belt with passport and €500 gone, wallet gone, handlebar bag emptied, everything had been emptied except for the bag with my food. A book which had been in the electronics bag had been placed in the food bag.
Within 1 hour there was another call and some police officers bought in my missing bag. This was the bag with my clothes and which normally would have contained my passport and money. The clothes were still there.
In short the police reassured me that I would be taken care of, they told me to go to the post office across the road to try and get some money transferred. I could write about the kindness of a certain clerk there, who took me in and even offerred to let me stay at her house, a kindness so unexpected and in such contrast to the cold indifference of the other officials I talked to. She phoned the police and explained that it was impossible to transfer money to me without identification, and wanted to see if one of the police officers would accept the money on my behalf (she would have accepted the money but it was strictly forbidden by the post office). After this discussion she said that the police would be able to organize a place for me to stay, and that it was better to sort out the money tomorrow at the Bristish Embassy.
I went back to the police station, and we did the report and I waited. Ana, the clerk from the post office, came in to check on me and talked to the police in portuguese, she later said that they were very cold with her, not understanding why she was there. The next day she told me she often helped people, and told me the story of an old lady with alzhiemers who was being taken advantage of by a conman, whom she helped much to the chargrin of her boss. In fact I was suprised that she was able to dedicate so much time to helping and chatting to me, she seemed to have a medicinal effect on everybody in the office.
I stayed the night in a cheap hotel and ate at a cheap resteraunt both at the expense of the portuguese social services, the next day I was driven to the Britich Consul in Porta (not the embassy in Lisbon as I had expected). The lady that delt with me was at first incomprehending.
“OK, so you will need a passport photo before I can give you a passport” she said, “there are some shops in town where you can get this done” “Can you not do it here?” “No” she chuckled. “But I have no money” I said, and she stared blankly into the area directly to my left. “How can I get money?” I asked “You will have to transfer money, you will need somebody to wire you money, maybe somebody from your family can help?” “Yes,” I said “But to transfer money I need a passport” “Ah..” she replied, and again stared blankly cogitating. “Well, lets start with the passport, that can be paid for with a credit card by somebody in your family…”
So I proceeded to contact first Mum, then Dad, then Jenny and Robbie, and repeated the phone calls until I got through eventually to Dad and then Jenny who was had the necessary aparatus at her disposal the office where she worked (i.e. a fax machine, a computer and a phone). Jenny paid for the passport and the consul lady gave me coffee and biscuits (I was feeling very hungry as it was 15:00 and I hadn’t eaten since the night before, and that was not much).
“This is what we shall do” she said to me over the glass walled counter as I sat reading my book. “I will take you to the shopping center and get your photo”
So she shut up the consul office and drove me to the shopping center
“This is quite irregular, I shouldn’t be doing it, but there is nothing else to do” she said in her south african acent. “Its very kind of you” I said “No, its not that, its not that.”
I had the photo taken at a photo shop in the shopping center and she paid for it and we drove back to the consul. The passport was sorted out and I walked back into town. I went to the post office and after speaking to a woman who clearly didn’t understand my intention (I wanted to contact somebody to transfer money to me) she gave up and did what people at the post office clearly always did when some stragling stranger was causing a nusance, she took me to Ana. “Hi Dan!”
She made me feel at home and let me stay in her office and use her phone charger whilst I contacted Jenny and we made the bank transfer. Introducing me to her colleauge who was very talkative also. The pair were often told things like “you should be working and not talking” but clearly they had such a positive effect on everybody that nobody really took mind of it.
After some problems with the Western Union web site not responding, I finally got €200 and was able to get some food (I hadn’t eaten now for almost 24 hours, but I didn’t complain) and checkin to a hotel.
So, what did I have? At one point I had lost everything, at one point I really did have nothing but the clothes I stood in and my telephone (I took it with me when I ran up the stairs). Getting the bike back was an immense bit of luck and if given a choice between getting back either the stuff that I did get back, or the stuff that I lost (the value being roughly equal), I would have chosen the half which contained the bike.
Bicycle before it was stolen