perfectly good bikes

I work at an elite New England liberal arts college that shall remain nameless. It’s early March. The snow is melting, the grass is coming back, and out of the depths of the 10-foot high snowbanks, the abandoned bikes have started to appear. As I walked back from my noonday swim at the field house, I saw the rear tires and partially exposed frames of some really nice bikes. They had been locked to the bike rack for the winter. Bikes like these are scattered all over campus, chained to lampposts and garbage cans, or just left in heaps by the entrances to dorms. They look so sad and abandoned, orphans all. I’m sure their owners will claim them again when Spring finally arrives for good, but I couldn’t help thinking of that John Hiatt song, “Perfectly Good Guitars,” about musicians that smash their instruments just because they can. Maybe it’s because most of the students at the college where I work are wealthy and can afford to let their bikes freeze and rust in snowbanks. Maybe it’s because when I bought my first mountain bike with my own money, I used to keep it in my dining room and wipe it down with a soft cloth every night, much to my wife’s chagrin. Maybe we live in a disposable society where we don’t value and take care of our precious belongings that have been so hard-won. I don’t know. I just know that those bikes looked lonely and cold, and if I could have, I would have brought them all home.

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