After that brief moment of clarity and introspection, he returned to delirium, hysteria and mania. He stated repeatedly that he had to get the stuff back–he was panicked that someone would use the information to assume his identity. I am not making this up. He thought someone wanted to steal his identity and he was panicked.
As a bit of a refresher, the guy was 49 years old, lived at home with his mother, wore nothing other than bike clothes (that were rarely laundered) and worked as a part-time tech for a cable access channel.
Yeah, that is the identity I want to steal.
Then I thought I might be judging him a little harshly. Perhaps he was actually independently wealthy–the eccentric millionaire type.
Well, at least I tried to envision it.
He said he saw a TV program once with his mother (he had to give her some time since it had been a while since he had brought her up), where there was a band of crooks that frequented bars and they would prey on unsuspecting patrons, steal their identity and then the victims would spend years trying to clear their name. I thought back to the bar the night before and although I was there for only a brief moment, I could not imagine a person that a criminal would target less than Ohmygod.
I tried to calm him down, but he was apoplectic. Knowing now that the situation was not all that grave, I lied. I said he would have to take a train back to Paris and go to the Commissariat himself. This was not much of a calculated risk. First, I had a pretty good feeling he feared authority more than he feared hygiene and would therefore never go before a ‘commissariat’ by himself. Second, if I were wrong and he did go back to Paris, at least he would be gone for a bit. He asked how much was a train trip back to Paris. When I told him it would be about 120€ (I made it up), or about ten times what was ‘stolen’ he paused and just shook his head in fear. I told him he needed hurry up and pack so we could get riding to the next town.
He nodded. This caused the morsel of croissant (which had somehow miraculously remained affixed to his chin all this time) to be dislodged. He saw it drop to the ground and reflexively reached down to pick it up. I quickly turned and left. I did not want to witness what happened next.
Surprisingly, Ohmygod quickly (at least for him) packed up and got on the road. He was audibly mumbling about the need to “Call the Cops” so I assured him that I would stop by the police station in town and ask if they knew of any miscreants in town who might have perpetrated the heinous crime. (Yes, I was being sarcastic–I could hold it back no longer. Since Ohmygod is not even as sharp as a bowling ball, he did not pick up on it at all. In fact, he appeared relieved, even empowered, by my planned course of action.)
After he peddled off (initially in the wrong direction until I shouted after him and got him to turn around), I milled around town for a bit so that he would get a decent head start–riding with him all day was lower than last on my to-do list.
After almost two hours of killing time, I hopped on my bike.
On the way out of town, I decided to stop by the bar we had visited the night before, just on a whim. Most bars (particularly outside of Paris double as cafés in the morning). Often, the same wait staff will work both shifts. Sure enough, our waiter from the night before was serving up espressos from behind the bar. I had been to the bar countless times, and the waiter knew me by sight. He started shaking his head and cracked a smile as he placed a fanny pack on the counter. I opened it to discover all of the ‘stolen’ items including about 20€ in cash. I asked the waiter if Ohmygod had paid his bill before leaving the night before. He smiled sheepishly and said no, but it was OK, no big deal. I took out the money from his fanny pack and handed it to the waiter. The waiter refused, but I insisted since it was not my money–although they were such nice people I would have paid it myself. As I said, I would go to this bar every time I was in town, and I wanted to make sure that they were taken care of. I figured I would come up with a story to tell Ohmygod if it ever came to that.
As he put the cash in the register, he said “Merci, et bonne route” (‘Thanks and have a good ride’). After a pause, he added with a sardonic smile “Bonne chance” (‘Good luck’).
As I walked back over to my bike, I looked again in the fanny pack (briefly forgetting the long ago learned lessons on disease prevention). Birth certificate. Social security card. A driver’s license that was missing the upper right corner and about 1/3 of the overall mass (including most of the number). A picture of an older woman (mom?).
Bonne chance indeed.