Bike Swap

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I stole a bike recently from a friendly neighborhood department store. I didn’t mean to. Honestly.

We bought a bike for Reagan in October. We paid extra for the replacement plan.

Within the first week Reagan came home with tire problems. Soon the rear brakes failed. It was time to utilize our replacement plan.

I took the bike to the store (a 40-minute drive), and learned that "replacement" might not be an accurate word for our plan. A phone number was mentioned, but it was clear: keep the bike.

I talked with the manager about the brakes, the tires, and our general dissatisfaction with the product. He agreed to have his bike guys fix the brake and take a look at the tire.

“The assembly department is in another building. I’ll walk it over, and we’ll call you when it’s ready. Should be about 20 minutes,” the manager assured me.

I completed my Saturday re-stocking mission and 45 minutes later went to inquire at customer service. I saw Reagan’s bike and decided to save the inquiry and head home. Confidently, I walked the bike to my car. Assuming the rear brake was fixed, I decided to stop at a bicycle repair shop and have them install Slime. (Slime is a tire sealant, in case you’re like me and never heard of it. Every bike rider in the desert uses it, evidently.)

As I headed into the shop I noticed a missing pedal. I took a deep breath, assumed it fell off during the repair, and purchased a new set of pedals. I sprang for the extra-durable tire along with the Slime. Thirty-five dollars later I came out with a new and better bike for my son.

Within a day the handlebars failed. Chris kept tightening them but they kept loosening whenever Reagan would ride in the desert. Within a week Reagan wasn’t riding his new bike.

Two weeks later, as we contemplated the future of the bike, I received a call on my cell phone. It was one of the bike assemblers letting me know, “Your bike is ready.”

In denial and disbelief and without hesitation I said, “Thank you.”

Now what? How do I explain? What do I do with our investment of the new tire? What about the boy who came back for his missing-pedal bike? I can't handle our next meal, let alone this dilemma. Our best option, I rationalized, was to retrieve Reagan’s bike, switch out the tires, and return the “stolen” bike.

Chris picked up Reagan's bike and we followed the plan. Our neighbor helped us with the tires.

Chris drew the “return the bike” straw this week. As he walked the bike toward customer service he prepared his speech. When he arrived, the customer service line wound all the way around to the junior department. He saw a line of bikes in the "return" area and parked it next to the others. He was not guilt-free in doing this, but he was glad he didn't have to stand in line.

I share this story for four reasons:

1. To encourage others to read the fine print on replacement plans. It's Christmas, after all.

2. To celebrate the fact that our son, while still struggling with vestibular issues, is riding a bike.

3. To remind others to inspect a bike carefully before walking away with it.

4. To note the wisdom of the quote by Billy Wilder that "hindsight is always twenty-twenty."

Whether a bike with a broken pedal, or a house with toxic mold, everything is much clearer in retrospect.