Yeah, you read that right. I’ve been wrapping my head around this thing for two days now, and the only conclusion I can really come to is that I got real, real lucky.
I came out of The Armory here in Tainan around 2 or 3. I’d parked around back, because there were no spaces out front and the bar backs up to a massive parking lot/abandoned park area right in front of my house.
I was planning on just walking home. Cut through the little alley, popped over this opening into the lot, when I looked to my right and… no scooter.
I’d parked on this patch of grassed over pavement that wasn’t even in the parking lot. It was off behind one of the buildings abutting the lot. So, let’s be super clear– this, in no way, was an illegal parking spot. No red lines. Nothing. This was straight up off the grid.
Now, I’m also 100% clearly remember getting off my bike and hitting the $10,000nt alarm my friend had installed on it. It’s not that I thought my parking spot was shady. Rather, I didn’t lock my helmet (as no one really does in Tainan). Being a little paranoid that some drunk might nick the helmet, I hit the alarm, which is so sensitive that if anyone grabbed the helmet and shook the bike shook just a hair, it would start screaming. There were plenty of homes around, so I figured that would be deterrent enough.
But no, scooter is gone. Immediate panic sets in. I’m flipping. I look around. Almost right in front of me I see two people rolling a scooter up into the back of one of these Taiwan “blue trucks” (like a small minivan but with an open truck bed).
One guy is standing in the door of the truck. The two others are pushing the other scooter up the back. Now, not even thinking about how odd this was, I approached them to ask if they had heard or seen my bike.
Of course not.
Then they start getting a little twitchy. Next thing I know, back is bolted up, and they give some whistle. A team of about a dozen people come out of the shadows, all jump in the truck and go to take off.
Mind you, my scooter is not on this truck, but my wits return to me a bit, and I’m thinking — what the fuck are these guys doing in this parking lot rolling up a scooter into the bed of this truck at 3am?
1. Too late at night to realistically be picking up one of their own scooters (because it broke down or to move it to another city). Who would do that at 3am? Here?
2. Why would they need a team of people? Why would they have all been spread out around the lot and not helping?
3. These guys don’t work for the city, because the driver barely had any teeth from chewing betel nut his whole life and they were dressed like bumpkins. Not to mention, there are a million scooters parked on red lines around 7-11s and other normal, easy to locate spots around the city– not 200 meters into some dark corner of a mostly vacant lot.
So, yeah, I start flipping. Like, clearly these dudes have been working this lot for the last hour, probably already loaded up my bike in the first truck and took off with it.
Surprisingly calmly, I tell the driver, “Look, man. I know you guys nicked my bike. Just bring it back to me, and it’s a done deal. No problems.”
Now, here’s one of those “TGITaiwan” moments. If this had been the streets of some big city in the US, these dudes would have probably hospitalized me. End of problem, for them.
Luckily, that didn’t go down.
I tell them I’m calling the cops, whip out my phone and take a picture of the guys license plate (above). He bolts as I am yelling out his license plate number to him.
Now, here is where the story gets odd.
I run back inside to get my friends and tell them what happened. I forget if I had called the cops already or they helped me call, but we immediately all ran back out to the lot. They kept telling me to look around, as if someone moved it, which, based on where I parked, was 100% implausible, but I did anyway.
I start pacing up and down the lot. I get about 20-30 meters from where my bike was parked, and I come across a cop car. I double-take. Two cops are sitting in the damn car! They’re in crystal clear view of my bike and the whole thing that just went down.
For whatever reason, they jump out immediately and start trying to be all, “What’s going on?” They hadn’t even gotten the call from dispatch. They called it in again, which leaves me thinking:
1. What were they doing there? How long were they there? Obviously they didn’s get a call from dispatch, because what kind of code is it to roll up to a potential crime scene, lights off, no siren, and ass-in park 30 meters from where everyone is standing?
2. These guys were all booted and suited, flak jackets and all. It was a little much to be sitting and chilling in a lot, in a parked squad car with no lights on. For anyone who knows Taiwan, cops are required to always have their blueys on, no matter what. So…?
Seems a little dodgy to me.
They call it in. I’m still in a panic. Rage is starting to set in. I mention I saw a truck full of guys loading bikes, and they are all, “Well, wait, let’s just make a call in to the station first.”
Then ask me for my bike information, in a way in which I now almost think they were hoping I didn’t have it or didn’t have it on me.
Again, luckily, I saved my scooter plate number and VIN into my cellphone. They call it in.
“Oh, someone just brought your bike to the station.”
“Yeah, it’s at the station. They say someone brought it in because it was just sitting here running, so they brought it in to keep it safe.”
This is where jubilation kicked in. I moved right past disbelief and doubt and skepticism, just right into pure relief.
They tell me to hop in the back of the squad car and they would take me to the station. Now, oddly enough, this local girl, a friend of a friend, who was still standing out there helping me out at this point, told me bluntly, “Do not get in the car with them! I will give you a ride.”
I remember her insistence kind of surprising me at that time, even through my jubilant relief. So, I rode with her.
Sure enough, there was my scoot at the station. And everyone was all hugs and the cops were all smiles. And everything was all peachy.
It was only the next morning when I started really thinking, how in the hell could my bike have been running?
1. I had the keys on me the whole time. I obviously had to turn it off to remove them from the ignition. And, I specifically remember hitting the alarm and hearing the beep.
2. I always close this little latch that slips over my keyhole and requires me to use a special part of my key with an internal RFID chip to pop it back open. It was closed when I picked up the bike.
3. My scooter does have an automatic start button on my alarm beeper. BUT if it is started that way, the only way to turn the bike off is to press the same button again. Even if you have the RFID to open the keyhole and the key, it will not turn off. It was not running when I picked it up, and it had gas in it.
4. My alarm would still have been screaming even as someone moved it, so who would go through the hassle of either walking it a half-k through a dark, shady park or loading its heavy ass onto a truck and moving it to the police station, all while it pierces their ear drums? Mormons?
So, a lot of questions, and you can probably induce where I am leaning on this whole thing:
The only way I can picture it is that I happened to be lucky enough to hit the parking lot when that squad of scooter thieves was still there thinking they could nick a few more bikes. The cops had to be in on it. They all panicked when they saw that I was white, when they heard I was calling the cops, and when they saw me take the picture of the truck license plate. The nick squad called up to the truck that had taken mine, they told him to drop it in front of the police station. Cops took their precious time, played the heroes.
P.S. A totally different cop was there in the morning when I went to pick it up, just being a total hardass cop prick, quizzing me like he’s all pissed off, “Why’d you leave it running?!” Hey, jackass, my intention was to have it stolen and brought to you. You fucking moron. Dude actually had the balls to tell me it wasn’t my scooter because he had never seen one of our foreigner ID cards and couldn’t match up the names. Who’s the monkey, now, chief? Typical cop prick.