Mysteries surround us. Some big — like, “What happens after we die?” Some small — like, “What’s with the bike in Scoville Park?”

Maybe the latter isn’t on your radar. If so, you’re probably not alone. I’ve been looking at this bike for months out the window of Red Hen at the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street. Perhaps you noticed it but thought it looked perfectly normal — a woman’s red Outfitters Strata, what used to be called a “mountain bike,” though around here it would be more of a “trail bike,” with balloon tires, a small platform attached above the rear wheel for carrying stuff, and secured to one of three circular metal fixtures with a black Kryptonite lock.

If you looked more closely, you would spot the flat back tire and the chain, rusted from months of weather exposure.

But most people likely haven’t noticed any of this because our attention is blindered — by worship of smartphones, our perpetual state of being in a hurry, and, as Eckhart Tolle put it, “The human condition: Lost in thought.”

My condition is different: Lost in wonder.

Curiosity gets the best of me. I wonder about the owner, who cared enough to lock her bike properly yet never came back to retrieve it. Did she die suddenly and tragically? Did the survivors ask, “I wonder what happened to the bike?” Did she forget where she left it? Did she simply give up after the tire went flat? “I’ll leave it here and come back for it later,” then never did? Does she drive by and think, “Damn, I’ve got to take care of that one of these days,” but never does? Maybe she moved and decided to leave it behind. “I’ll buy a new one when I get to Frisco.” 

Someone in (or around) our community has disappeared, leaving only this trace. I can’t help wondering why. Curiosity says we care about what happens to one another. 

But maybe the Case of the Abandoned Bike means we don’t care quite as much as we like to think we do.

In a town where stolen bikes may account for the largest portion of criminal activity, even thieves have apparently overlooked this tempting morsel. Maybe the lock defeated them (which would make an excellent, if odd, promotional ad for the Kryptonite company).

I don’t blame the park district for not noticing. They probably don’t have a lot of time to spend at each park, looking around and asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?” When they do stop by, it’s likely for a specific task, which they attend to and then depart.

But it’s surprising that something this conspicuous, at one of our busiest traffic intersections (vehicular and pedestrian) can fly completely under our radar for something like six months. Hiding in plain sight. Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street is the center of town, a hub of community activity. 

Are we simply becoming less curious? Do we care less? What else are we overlooking? 

The fact is, we lose people. Some move suddenly. Some die and hardly anyone notices. There is no one to mourn them. In some respects, we are a tightly knit community, but we also have a lot of loose threads. People come and go. We are less an intricately interwoven textile and more of a plush rug, easy to get lost in.

It wasn’t until this past Saturday, a wintry, early midwinter’s evening in January, that I finally stopped to take a closer look at the bike. I wondered what would happen when she is finally removed, probably shortly after someone at the park district reads this column. Will she be sold in the annual police bike auction? Will some kid who can’t afford a new bike give her new life? Or is this her final resting place

Questions abound.

Mysteries surround.

Only the answers are in short supply.

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