And throw away the key

Go, Ebenezer Scrooge!

For those of us who tend to be slightly more bah humbug than chestnuts roasting on an open fire during the holidays, the cold aroma of schadenfreude emanating from a tantalizing Dickensian tale of yuletide meanness can make for an irresistible draw.

So when an e-mail showed up alleging that the manager of Capitol Ace Hardware, incensed by a bicycle left on the store’s premises overnight by the e-mail writer’s wife, had sawed through the cruiser’s Kryptonite lock and given the bike away, it looked like old Scrooge might be delightfully rearing his head just in time for Christmas.

According to the husband’s e-mail, high-school teacher and former Arizonan Bryan Sobehrad, the manager was belligerent when he confronted him over this dastardly deed—“was a total prick about it” is how Sobehrad put it. The manager then told Sobehrad that he should apologize for making him work so hard at sawing through the Kryptonite lock.

Only through sheer luck did Sobehrad spot someone riding his wife’s bike a few blocks away; he got it back.

Figuring this manager was someone who might fit the phrase a writer named Daniel Sinker recently used to describe billionaire Tribune Company owner Sam Zell—“a waxed mustache away from tying a damsel in distress to a railroad track”—I rode over to the hardware store on I Street, just west of 19th Street, on Sunday afternoon to confront the scurrilous rapscallion.

It was raining, and the storm’s welcome ferocity had knocked much of the recent color from the trees. The streets were slick with wetness, but the atmosphere was surprisingly ungloomy.

Snidely Whiplash turned out to be an amiable blond man in his 20s named Matt London, who said he arrived at work on a Monday to find a bike locked to the store’s rack. It was still there at midday Tuesday, so he elected to saw the lock and bring the bike inside. An employee at the store commented on the old Schwinn cruiser’s coolness factor, and London gave it to her, figuring it was abandoned property. Which may have been within his rights as the manager of his family’s hardware store, but perhaps was a bad judgment call.

When Sobehrad arrived to get the bike back, he was livid. Harsh words were exchanged. According to London, this all happened sometime before Halloween.

“I wish the whole thing had never happened,” he lamented.

Sobehrad, who called me back after I’d spoken to London, disagreed, claiming the event took place just before Thanksgiving. He did concede that the bike had been left there for more than 24 hours; his wife figured it would be safe there. The quaint-village vibe of Midtown, perhaps, lulled her into complacence. “I’ve heard from people who have lived here for a while that Midtown used to be a rougher place,” Sobehrad said.

Now, a bad judgment call usually doesn’t telescope into a fine Scrooge story. One person’s Ebenezer is another’s everyman, overburdened with the vicissitudes of life. And if there’s a moral here, it is this: If you lock your bike on private property overnight, call the owner right away to let him know it’s there, and when you will be there to pick it up.