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Wheels of Fortune

New York Magazine, January 7, 1991

Not long ago, I had my fifth bicycle stolen. A week later, having neither the money to buy a new one nor any friends I hadn't relieved of their unused bikes, I resolved, with regret, to do what I had told myself I would never do: buy a hot bike.


So late on a Friday afternoon, I ventured among the thirdhand magazines, rusty toasters, and piles of dead men's clothes on Astor Place and procured a beat-up ten-speed from an obliging "salesman." Feeling slightly conspicuous and guilty, I headed for home in haste, imagining the bike's previous owner stalking the streets, just as I had done a few times.


Two blocks down Third Avenue, I glanced at the cyclist on my right and realized, with disbelief, that the bicycle he was riding was mine. Astonished and almost giddy from the irony, I motioned the man over and explained my discovery to him. "That was my bicycle! It was stolen from me last week. How much did you pay for it?" I asked. "I paid $20," he said. "Twenty dollars! Listen," I said, "I just bought this one for $40. It's a good bike. I'll give you this one if you give me mine back." "How much money do I give you?" he asked. "Nothing," I said. "Okay?"


As we traded bikes, he told me he delivered for a restaurant and had had ten bikes stolen. We wished each other well and went on our separate ways, he with a bemused smile and I with a wild shriek of delight. I pedaled slowly, though, not wanting to push my luck.