Afterthoughts: Hot Wheels

My rides keep getting stolen, but I’m finally getting smarter.

illustration: hanam mun

There’s a moment, when you arrive at the parking spot in which your vehicle is not, during which you assume you’ve made a mistake. Huh, that’s weird, you think. I could have sworn I parked right here.

Only after a double take, and a quick mental replay of the last time you locked up your vehicle, does the gut-punch realization finally hit that your ride has been stolen. I imagine it’s the exact sensation Wiley E. Coyote gets when he looks down and sees he’s five feet past the edge of a 1000-foot cliff.

I got the Wiley cliff drop a few weeks ago, when I walked out of my apartment to go to work and found my Vespa scooter gone. Normally, it’s chained up in a corner of my parking stall, leaving 90 percent of the space empty. But, suddenly, the space was 100-percent empty. No bike, no chain, nothing. Weird.

Even after the disappearance sunk in, I waited a few minutes before calling the police. Until an officer showed up, the theft wasn’t really real. It was possible that maybe I had just … misplaced my bike. Temporarily losing a scooter would be embarrassing, but it’s easier to stomach than the alternative, which is that I got targeted by a dirtbag with a pair of bolt cutters.

It’s not the first time dirtbags have jacked my ride. At this point, I’m starting to feel as though it’s inevitable. The city of Honolulu has the No. 1 highest motorcycle theft rate in the nation, beating metropolises such as New York City, Los Angeles and Miami; I’ve contributed a sportbike and two mopeds to that statistic, not to mention three bicycles.

The first time was the hardest. After my Suzuki Katana 600 sportbike disappeared in Kihei, I spent months canvassing local neighborhoods for it, even combing through the scrubby underbrush of nearby undeveloped land, as if there was a possibility that someone had hid the motorcycle there as a practical joke. In traffic, I scanned the roads constantly, hoping to spot my beloved bike, or at least the asshole who took it. Nothing ever came of my searching, or my elaborate revenge fantasies.

The disaster was compounded by the fact that I hadn’t insured the bike for anything more than the basic liability coverage required by the state of Hawaii. The way I saw it, thefts, like collisions, were something that happened to other people. Why would I shell out real money from my already thin wallet for something that probably wouldn’t even happen? Oh, the dumb invincibility of a 20-year-old on a sportbike.

These days, I’m a little more battered, and a little wiser. When I bought the Vespa, I made sure to also purchase a comprehensive annual policy for it; when I reported it stolen, my insurance agent told me he’d cut me a check for the cash value of the bike if it didn’t turn up in a week or two.

My mood brightened immediately. The idea of thieves invading my personal property is still creepy, but it’s amazing how cash can mellow your outlook. Someone wanted my scooter enough to cut the chain and heave it into the back of their truck? Fine, let them have it. I’ve got a check. Just a few hours after the theft, I was already moving on, emotionally speaking.

Money can’t replace sentimental value, of course; I do miss my Vespa. But instead of shopping for a replacement scooter, I decided to spend my insurance check on something else: a down payment. Regular readers might remember an Afterthoughts I wrote last June, debating with myself over whether to buy a car, after more than a decade of going without. Almost a year later, I’m finally making the jump. My new car is shiny, nimble and has a ton of storage space. Most important, though? It’s fully insured.