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Hello to you all! Hopefully you all had a nice, romantic Valentine’s Day weekend. It’s a great time to tell your loved ones that they stink by giving them perfume, and to profusely assure them that it’s okay if all those candy hearts make them fat. Isn’t love grand? As for me, I chose the high road and avoided buying into the two-billion-dollar commercialization of the holiday by giving my wife something directly from my heart. Or rather, from my intestines to be more accurate. Ah, the stomach flu. The gift that just won’t stop giving … and giving … and giving…
But let’s put the romantic sharing aside for a moment, as I need to focus a bit more on the sharing of things not intended to be shared. Things like bikes, laptops, wallets, underwear, toothbrushes and myriad other personal items that some people seem to think are left out just for them. Every week at the Isla Vista Foot Patrol office, I deal with various reports of stolen (or, to be politically correct, “borrowed for an extended period for the purpose of personal utilization”) items. Laptops from unlocked apartments disappear faster than a box of chocolates at a Richard Simmons “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” workout session. On Friday and Saturday nights, unlocked bikes get drafted into a drunken late-night “Ride-Share” program, and they end up on lawns, trees or the rooftops of unsuspecting residents. Sure, it would be great if a bike appeared on your rooftop as a gift from Bad Santa, but the reality is that, unlike the Great Pumpkin, Santa doesn’t really drop off free, thousand-dollar Trek racing bikes.
I was stopped by the cops riding a “community” bike that had been left in our yard about a month ago. The officer said that I was in possession of stolen property. I didn’t take it; I was just using it, like everyone else in my house does. Why am I in trouble?
Isla Vista has a reputation for having a free-for-all attitude when it comes to bikes. For some reason, many people in our community think that taking bikes is just a part of living in I.V. I just don’t get that concept. If I walked into your apartment and took five hundred dollars of your rent money out of your wallet, you would be mildly pissed off. Yet to grab someone’s thousand-dollar bike that they need to get to school and work every day is okay? There wasn’t a lock on your wallet and the front door was unlocked, so saying the bike was left unlocked doesn’t fly with me.
Now why would you be in trouble? Look at it this way: Let’s say I find your wallet left out on a table at Freebirds, or even better, on your driveway on Sunday morning. You would expect me to make an effort to return it to you, especially since there are ways to find out who it belongs to (hint: look inside). In the same respect, whether it’s a fifty-dollar beater bike or a two-thousand-dollar Cadillac of bikes, the laws in California put the responsibility on you to make a reasonable effort to return property to its owner before you use it as your own. Section 485 of the California Penal Code states that the misappropriation of lost or stolen property (or the taking of it for yourself) without making reasonable efforts to return it is a misdemeanor. If you turn it into the police, we will hold it for 90 days, and if the owner can’t be found, the property can become yours. Just be careful, since there’s a good chance that the community bike is probably stolen, and of course, the one time you ride it might be the one time that the cops stop you. Don’t risk it. And one more thing: To whoever “misappropriated” my Elmo boxers … I will find you…
I was warned about buying magazine subscriptions from door-to-door salespeople. The warning came too late, as I already bought some subscriptions from a guy selling them for a youth outreach program. Was I ripped off?
It’s all about perspective. Did you buy these with the goal of helping out troubled youth? Then think of it as your donation of fifty bucks to someone who will probably use it to buy some healthy vegetables for dinner, save it for their college tuition or use it to help build shelters for homeless penguins in Hawaii. Yes, think whatever you want …
But sadly, there are organizations that make money by taking vanloads of homeless and troubled teens from the cities and driving them all over the state and even across the nation. They then require them to sell overpriced magazines or other items door-to-door under the guise of helping disadvantaged youth earn chances to improve their lives. Do you get the magazines? Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. It’s a crap shoot. However, I would be hesitant to hand fifty bucks over to some random person who showed up at my door based only on his solemn promise to send you something in eight-to-twelve weeks.
If you feel you must do your part, don’t get unneeded magazine subscriptions or five-dollar Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Instead, call me! I will come over and collect your fifty bucks, and I promise I will put the money to positive use helping those young at heart fight the painful addiction of Call of Duty-itus. I will personally oversee the extensive rehabilitation process for those of us suffering from this debilitating disorder. Okay, or I’ll give it to some of those other charities. I’m sure Jerry’s Kids, the Special Olympics, United Way and Red Cross probably do some good stuff too.
As I come to the close of the latest installment of Question Authority, I leave you wanting to make sure you know that I was just kidding about what my wife and I did to show our love this Valentine’s Day. As I type this, we are en route to Visalia for the Brian Regan comedy concert. That’s a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift. Almost as good as my willingness to visit every other truck stop bathroom between Santa Barbara and Fresno. What we have really is true love …
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.