Cosmic Justice In the Cops and Robbers Alleycat Race.
I was the third rider to finish the “Cops and Robbers” alleycat bike race put on by R.E.Load Bags, but was disqualified because I wrote down the wrong answer to one of the questions on my manifest.
No glory, no custom R.E.Load messenger bag, no grudging admiration from hardcore cyclists half my age. Ouch.
But alas, I deserved my fate—although not for the reason ruled by the organizer of the event, R.E. Load co-owner, Ellie.
No, the reason for my disqualification was independent of Ellie’s decision. She was simply the tool through which the Cycling Gods meted out their cosmic justice.
The race was a scavenger hunt with about 8 different stops, all of which had to do with crimes and/or punishments from Seattle history. It was a wild goose chase meant to be more about the experience than the goal; unfortunately, I failed to remember that when it mattered most.
At the sign-in there must have been 200 cyclists clustered around the entrance to R.E.Load, lots of great bikes and cool looks.
After paying our entrance fee, we were given a spoke card, a costume--masks for robbers, moustaches for cops--and a manifest describing the stops we were to make and the information and items we were to gather.
My good idea was to proceed directly from the start to the tattoo shop. I was the first one there and Ego, the tattoo artist, gave me a “Cops and Robbers” Sharpie tattoo and passed on the location of the “Secret Hideout” at 730 E. 10 Ave.
I was among the first group to arrive there and took it as a good omen that I won the blackjack hand we played.
I hauled up to Volunteer Park for the “shootout” checkpoint, open only from 5:30 to 6:00.
When I arrived, one group of cops and robbers was finishing a water balloon vs. water pistols fight. Another set mingled around waiting for their turn. And here’s where I made the tragic error that ultimately disqualified me.
I got to talking with a fellow robber about the tattoo shop stop. She asked me to show her my tattoo so she could copy it, thereby circumventing that most time-consuming checkpoint. “But that’s cheating,” I said.
“Ah,” she replied, “But we’re robbers; we cheat.”
Thus, the idea was planted in my head that proved to by my downfall. “I’m a robber; robbers cheat,” I thought, stepping out of the waiting robbers group into the line of those getting their manifests “starred” to indicate completion of the shootout. The guy handing out stars accepted my phony explanation for why I wasn’t wet and stuck one on my page.
I let out a laugh as I left behind the group I should have been with. But the joke was on me; I had saved some time but in doing so, I had lost the race.
The guy handing out stars may have not noticed mine was undeserved, but the Cycling Gods didn’t. They were planning all along for my retribution, even as I hit the next series of checkpoints fairly uneventfully.
A trio of firemen gave me precise directions to one the stop I had no idea where to find, an apartment on Yale street. The Freeway Park bathroom where we had to locate the date of a famous murder was creepy but obvious. The checkpoint at Tiffany’s where I got my mardi gras necklace was a snap. I found my “dealer” in the cobblestoned alley under Pike Market with no trouble.
In the International District, I joined a number of racers tearing trying to find the former location of the notorious Wah Mee club; eventually it turned up and I read the stenciled sign that told us the number of dead—13--in the multiple murder that took place there.
Now, I had just one last stop left and I began to imagine I might be among the first finishers. I raced up 4th street to the apartment building that held the final clue. There, overcome by a competitive spirit, I now see as inimical to the spirit of the event, I misread the manifest, and wrote down the name of the hotel--the “Stratford on 4th”--rather than the name of the unfortunate victim whose name, I later noticed as I rode sadly by on my way home, was chalked on the sidewalk.
I pulled up to the Rendevous Bar and was congratulated for being the third finisher. Wow! Did I puff up! I started a tab and drank the first of what I assumed would be a series of celebratory beers as I ogled the beautiful bags and other prizes that would be awarded to the winners--of which I was one!
Ellie arrived and began check the manifests. The first two finishers, both cops, were verified. That meant that not only was I third finisher, I was the first robber! Imagine the prize I would get now!
I sidled over to the table where Ellie was going over my manifest. “Let’s see your tattoo.” Check. “Your beads from Tiffany’s” Check. “Fingerprint from the “headquarters” where I was ‘booked.’” Check. And all my answers of dates and numbers checked out, too.
But then Ellie pointed to my final answer. “This is wrong. You got her name wrong.”
I realized then I hadn’t even read the question. In my haste, and my sudden focus on winning rather than experiencing the event, I had written down the answer I thought was being asked rather than what, had I been present in the moment, I would have realized was really the question.
Ellie moved my manifest to a separate pile from the two she had already verified.
“I’m disqualified then,” I said, clarifying what I now realized but didn’t want to admit.
Ellie nodded her head. I shook her hand and thanked her for organizing the event. I paid my tab--one beer, some celebration--and pedaled home, smacking myself in the head from time to time for being such a stupid idiot.
So, I didn’t get a prize, even though--and don’t you forget it--I finished third, and first among the robbers.
But I did learn an important lesson:
It’s not the race that matters, it’s the ride.
That’s is the real prize for me from the “Cops and Robbers” alleycat, from the divine justice meted out by the Cycling Gods.