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It's always good to be curious about bicycles.
It's always good to be curious about bicycles.
By Rachel Ruhlen
Aug. 26, 2013 6:26 p.m.



We all have problems: health problems, money problems, people problems. Most of our people problems can be cured by cultivating a spirit of curiosity. Become genuinely curious about a person who has offended you, and you will understand their actions and find it had nothing to do with you personally. My bicycle and I rediscovered this truth last week.

At the end of the day I blithely walked out to the bike rack and unlocked my bike. The front wheel wouldn't budge. It had worked fine that morning and I couldn't see anything wrong. I unhooked the front brake and was able to turn the wheel--it wobbled dramatically from side to side.

I stared at it. I had thought it safe in the bike rack. It is a wheel-bender style bike rack, but I'm careful to lock it to the end of the rack. The lock goes through both the frame and the front wheel to secure the wheel and keep the bike from falling over. And yet here it was, badly damaged.

I tried to picture what could have happened. It would be tricky for a car to have hit it and none of the other bikes, and the front wheel but not the back wheel. Maybe someone tried to squeeze a scooter past the bike on the sidewalk. I imagined an inexperienced student on a scooter and I was angry.

I talked to the security guard. "The security cameras don't get much of the bike rack," he explained. "The parked cars are in the way." He showed me on the screen how very little could be seen. "I saw someone out mowing today," he suggested. "He might have backed into your bike and not even realized it." My mental image changed from an inexperienced student on a scooter to a hard working groundskeeper and my anger faded.

After watching the security footage, he concluded, "It might have been the mower, but I couldn't tell. If he hit it he didn't notice. But I didn't see anything else it could have been."

The wheel couldn't be fixed. It has a generator hub that powers my headlamp and must be built into the wheel. I dropped the damaged wheel at the bike shop and ordered a new rim, getting a printout of the estimated cost of the rim and the rebuild.

I took the cost estimate to Groundskeeping. I planned to ask for reimbursement, but I wasn't at all confident I would get a positive answer. I had no proof it was the mower.

The manager didn't accept my claim unquestioningly. He turned to the mower. "Is it possible you might have backed into it without realizing it?" "Yeah, it's possible," the mower, who was exactly the well meaning and hard working person I had envisioned, promptly replied. The manager and the mower examined my photos and listened to my arguments. "Well, I'll take this to Finance, see what they say," the manager finally said.

The next I heard on the matter was Finance asking where to send the check. Meeting the mower had restored my faith in humanity. The check sealed it.

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