Does it make me more of a local now that I've had a bike stolen? That's the only positive spin I can put on the situation. Well, that and the fact that I'm riding my third bike in four weeks and I have yet to pay for any of them, because I know some really generous people.
See, my roommate owns two bikes - the Good Bike (which is now also known as the "stolen bike") and the crooked bike (pictured, and which I've been riding the past month when she's in town). While I wasn't looking forward to her leaving Amsterdam, I was looking forward to taking ownership of the good bike and just hanging on to the crooked bike as a spare. But this past Friday afternoon, she discovered the good bike had gone missing - from right outside our apartment! That made us two people with one crooked bike between us (and the crooked bike was suffering from a busted tire, so that had to be fixed), and obviously that's not going to work. I mentioned my bike problems on facebook, and what do you know, within 24 hours I had another bike courtesy of a new friend that I've known for about 2 weeks. "Are you sure you want to give me this bike," I asked, "given that the other one was stolen from exactly where I'm about to lock up this one?"
"Of course," he replies, "It's no problem." So now I'm riding this cool Peugeot bike around Amsterdam, feeling like I should be in Philadelphia or something, leaning way down over the handlebars and lifting it on to the racks without any problem because the bike weighs nothing. It's not the most practical Amsterdam bike, but man, it's fun (and quick) to ride. However, it's not mine, so I'm going to suck it up and buy myself a new bike this week.
The way I understand it, there's a few different ways to obtain a bike in Amsterdam. You can be lucky, like I've been, and have friends who will give your their spare bikes. Or you can go to the junkies and get one for 20€ or so, in which case you're probably buying the exact bike that was just stolen from outside my house. In this city people steal bikes very openly, very often, and without hesitation. Then they sell them. Honestly, I can see the temptation behind buying one of those stolen bikes because when you go to a shop you're looking at spending at the very least 100€ (more like 150) for a pretty basic, somewhat junky, bike. If you want a "nice" bike you're going to spend at least 300 Euros. And why spend that kind of money when the thing is just going to be stolen and you have to buy two locks anyway? That tacks another 30-50 € on the price.
But I just simply can't buy a stolen bike. I've had bikes stolen in the past, I've had parts of my bike stolen in the past (the most memorable time was when someone stole my bike seat in Philly and replaced it... with another seat that didn't fit), my friends have had bikes stolen, and it happens all over the place, not just Amsterdam. The feeling of finding your bike stripped of its seat, handlebars, pedals, etc - or just seeing it not parked where you left it - it's just terrible. I mean, I already loved my roommate's good bike, and I had only ridden it a couple times. She was totally connected to it and loved it. People love their bikes, it's just the way it is, and if I bought a stolen bike I couldn't live with myself knowing that someone who might have loved that bike went out one morning to discover it had gone missing.
So after I looked through the neighborhood for the stolen bike and came up empty, my roommate and I comforted ourselves by getting some beer on a lovely, sunny, Friday afternoon and heading over to Vondelpark on foot, where we relaxed in the sun for an hour or so before heading to a fancy chocolate shop for more stolen-bike comfort. At 4.30am late Friday/early Saturday I was riding my third borrowed bike home from Jordaan, watching the sun rise and purposefully making my ride take as long as possible by riding around the Oud West until I got myself lost. It's harder and harder to get lost now, though it does happen.
My roommate leaves for Rome tomorrow, and then I'll be on my own for the next month or so. In July, one of my very close friends from New York will be coming to stay in Amsterdam with me for a month, which I'm really looking forward to, and hopefully another visitor or two will be popping up from Paris sometime in June. I suppose if getting a bike stolen (a bike I didn't pay for, mind you) is the only thing I really have to complain about, things aren't so bad, are they?