There are bicycle thieves in Rome. Sixty years ago, one of the great classic movies of Italian cinema said it was so. But unfortunately the descendents of these ladri di biciclette live on.
My housemate, David, is from Mexico. He has already got an M.D., and is here to do a degree in theology, but because his medical background lacks the basic philosophical underpinning required to study theology in the Roman system, his university has him starting all over at the beginning – baccalaureate, year one. (David’s own philosophical grounding probably surpasses the STB program here, however!) In other words, he is going to be here for a while. So his decision to invest in a durable, quality bicycle (€150) while at the Porta Portese market on our second weekend in Rome was a bit of an investment, but for three years it is a lot cheaper than riding the metro or bus every day.
Apparently, Rome’s bicycle-thieving crime syndicate thought so too. Only four days after the classes began, someone took a little too much notice of David’s bike, locked up in front of the Gregorianum. (There are no bike racks here, so everyone locks their bikes to the chains protecting the piazza from the omnipresent motorini and smart cars).
As it happened, David saw the thieves in action and gave a chase worthy of a classic adventure film. Coming down the stairs between classes, he glanced out a window in the direction fo the bikes and saw a few people gathered around his bicycle, paying a little too much attention, so he headed for the door. As he came out the entrance, he saw the lock on the ground – cut by bolt cutters – and one of the ragazzi riding off with his bike in the direction of Piazza Venezia.
David dropped his bag, books, and laptop and sped off in hot pursuit. Somehow hailing a Roman motorist sympathetic to the victim of a dishonorable theft, David jumped on the back of the citizen’s motorini, and together they continued the chase through the narrow streets of Rome.
Despite this valiant effort, though, the thief got away. Thankfully, another student saw the chase and was watching over David’s computer and backpack, or it would have been a total loss.
Remember this was only about 10 days or a couple weeks into our stay together at the Lay Centre; David was a little reticent to share the tale at first, but we are grateful he did – it gave the community an opportunity to show him what community is really about. Last Sunday, we were able to present him with a new bike – and a tougher lock – all organized by students in the house almost from the day we heard about the theft (thanks to Dimitrios for organizing!).
David’s response is worth sharing:
I am so many others. JB What a joyful surprise! I know that my first reaction was just to babble,– I was overwhelmed and felt a little bit shy and silly… therefore I now want to give my “acuse de recibo” I want to share with you what you have done and just how much this means to me, I want to thank you for it – it has made my heart thud – this sign of your friendship, in which is revealed the face of the good God; thank you – all of you – for being a spark (scintilla) with your smiles and your deep tenderness… Not only a coin I have found, a fiets, but also something even better. Thanks and rejoice with me!