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Woman on a bicycle

Sunday August 14, 1998

We landed in Toronto yesterday, and began our “Canadian Vacation” by renting our bicycles. Tomorrow, we were planning to start our cross Ontario trip from this rainy city to Winnepeg Manitoba. I’ve never been in Ontario or Toronto, so I left on an early morning cruise (just sightseeing) by myself. One block into the cycle and I’m calling my partner Jeff on my cell.

“I’m supposed to cycle over 1,000 km in these shoes?” I said. He laughed , and said “we’ll have to delay the trip and get you some bike runners.” “I can’t imagine how I could have forgotten the “proper attire” for biking, I said.

“Well, I’m already on my bike on Yonge St. so I might as well cruise around till I find a sports store. I’ll see you this afternoon with my new bike shoes. “

It’s Ok,” replied Jeff, “we can reschedule, and start tomorrow morning instead, “

“Just make sure everyone else has all their equipment, and hasn’t forgotten anything,” I said.

Knowing Bert and Susan, they probably were super overkill equipped. They could’ve lent me their extras, but I really wanted my own. And bought in TO. They’d double as a souvenir.

As the light turned green, I flipped shut my cell and proceeded on the rental bike with my heels on from last night’s business meeting. They were all I had with me.

How could I find a biker’s supply store on the main street of this megalopolis, with high rise business towers on all sides? I resigned myself to having to bike for some distance in my heels. If it rained again I’d really be in for it. I had only my small backpack, wallet and cellphone crammed into the front bike basket.

I was beginning to feel a wee bit overwhelmed and cold. I felt like disappearing with embarassment. I just hoped no one would notice what I was wearing.

“What if there’s a photographer, from the local paper or something, prowling around for news and takes my picture?” I thought to myself. “If I get into the paper, dressed like this, they’ll have a good laugh back home, at the very least.” I thought to myself.

Then out of nowhere, a sudden flash came from behind me.

I turned around, and there it was just as I had imagined it. A police photographer had just snapped my pic, and started asking me some very personal questions. Like did I have a picture ID or passport on me? When I asked what this was all about, they told me the German police had been searching for someone who had landed in TO yesterday, who looked exactly like me and who had the name “Fernanda Schüler”.

“Is that your name?” he asked me as I stared at him, stunned.

“Yes,” I said, “but why am I wanted by the German police?”

“I can’t go into details here” he said, “but you’ll have to trust me that we have only your personal welfare in mind.”

“Would you please come to police headquarters with me now?” he said smoothly. “I’ll try to explain in the cruiser.”

“And by the way, I brought you the pair of biker treads you forgot to pack. And here’s my raincoat. You look half frozen already”.

I couldn’t believe my ears, or my eyes. Sure enough, those were my bike running shoes from back home.

“How the hell, (excuse my french) did you get those?” I asked, feeling rather agitated and shaky now. I took the running shoes and put them on. It was a relief to be out of those cramped heels.

“I’ll explain everything to you at police headquarters” he said, as he loaded my bike into the back of the police van. Then, as I got into the seat behind the driver, and closed the door, he said “It’s a matter of international health and security.”

“Fernanda, can you remember what you ate yesterday on the plane at all?”….

Writing by Regina Stemberger
Photo “Two equestrian riders” by mikebaird

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