If you live in New York City, and you own a bike, you’re primarily concerned about two things regarding the ownership of said bike: not being killed while riding it, and not having it stolen, because once your bike is stolen—especially in New York City—it’s gone. Except for those moments when the internet comes to the rescue. Which can happen, occasionally.
Matt O’Rourke is a copy writer who had his bike stolen in Alphabet City last May. His Craigslist ad was like any other Craigslist ad pleading for the universe to return his stolen property, with the exception of the slightly-more-colorful-than-average prose he sprinkled into the ad:
Some assmaster stole my custom made, heavy, rusty Bologna bike at 10th & C last night.
I’ll give anyone who returns it $500 cash, no questions asked. I’ll also give $1k for the thief’s nads on a stick. Yes way.
It’s been passed on from generation to generation in my family for almost 3,000 years.
I’d really like to give it to my son some day. And if you’re the thief, and you’re reading this, please give it back. I’ll give you the five hundred bucks.
If you don’t, I will call Dog the Bounty Hunter, Bobba Fett, and Bear Gryls, and they will have a 3 way, and that 3 way will produce a son, and that son will be raised by Tito Ortiz, and on his 18th birthday, he and I will come to your house, and fuck your shit up. Thank you for your time.
The post went viral via Craigslist—with the help of Craig Newmark himself—among an assorted cast of other characters, including bloggers (like this one), a typically anti-bike contingent, and of course, Pee Wee Herman.
A year and a half passed. Matt’s bike was not returned. As he put it:
I gave up on mankind.
I drank a lot of shit scotch.
I started a band called Fuck Everyone.
I opened cans of peanuts at Safeway, farted in them, and then put the lids back on as fast as I could.
I adopted an abandoned cat, and then abandoned it.
Those were the darkest of days.
We all have our own ways of coping. But Matt’s mourning would soon be answered by the universe in the form of—incredibly—a returned bike. Apparently, someone saw someone else riding the bike on the Williamsburg Bridge, recognized it from the post a year and a half ago, and managed to return it to O’Rourke. Behold: The power of viral culture! As it turns out, the bike was sold by the bike thief in question, and its return was safely negotiated. But the larger point O’Rourke makes here isn’t an immutable one:
This needs saying:
You shared it, and a lot of people saw it.
And because you did, I got my bike back.
Thank you internet, that was very nice of you.
(Also, the $1000 dollar offer for the thief’s nads on a stick still stands.
Surely, this isn’t the first time a stolen bike was returned—or even famously returned—through the magic power of the internet. Novelist Jamie Attenberg also used her personal blog as a platform to explain how she used Craigslist in the opposite fashion to find her bike: by finding the the thief who was selling it back out to the world. Ms. Attenberg blogged her story, which ended up making headlines around the city.
While it is of course important to keep in mind all the stolen bikes which never get returned to their rightful owner, with all of its terrible detritus and nonsense and noise, The Internet occasionally gets things done. For this, today, in this small corner of it, it should be rewarded a gold star.
It should do more things like this.