Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 20, 2012

Cardboard bikes: What'll be next?

By Ed Vasicek
For the Kokomo Tribune

— As I was sitting on a bench in Foster Park, enjoying the peaceful water fountains, a man jogged toward me.

“Oh, no! Not Elmer again!” I panicked to myself. Sure enough, Elmer approached me with his usual snarl. I had no place to hide.

“Crazy day. I missed my doctor’s appointment over in Indy because these oversized trucks were hauling beams for some kind of bridge or something,” Elmer complained, without even saying hello. “The place was crawling with cops. I had to pull over three times to let ’em pass.”

“You mean police officers. And they don’t usually crawl,” I corrected.

“Yeah, right,” Elmer patronized. “Anyhow, I figured it’s because of all the crooks swiping anything made of metal. Remember that story in the Kokomo Tribune about how someone took them urns from the cemetery and hauled them over to the scrap metal place?”

“Yeah, I remember that. Hard to believe that anyone would do that. I guess there is no longer honor among thieves,” I philosophized. “Although I think there is a certain police-escort protocol when they transport an especially large load.”

“Well, maybe,” Elmer dismissed me skeptically. “I saw this article in The Futurist about how people are stealing metal. By coincidence, I have it on me. It reads:

“‘Metal theft may become one of the biggest criminal activities of the twenty-first century, warns University of Indianapolis criminologist Kevin Whiteacre. Targets may include construction sites, vehicle parts, plumbing and electrical equipment, and public infrastructure, where thieves see value not just in the manufactured goods themselves but also in their component metals ... Whiteacre has created a Web site, Metaltheft.net, as a repository of news and research on the phenomenon.’”

“Now that I think about it, I know sometimes thieves steal central air units for the copper tubing. And I heard of grave robbers who target gold and silver fillings,” I added.

“I have a couple of gold crowns myself,” Elmer complained. “When they send you the bill, you know why they are called crowns? The bill is a king’s ransom.”

Elmer’s cynicism gets on my nerves, so I interjected a quick conversation changer. “Elmer, would you ride a cardboard bike?”

“What kind of question is that?” Elmer objected. “Who ever heard of a cardboard bike?”

“Well,” I replied, “I happen to have my own article handy. This one reads:

“‘A bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard has the potential to change transportation habits from the world’s most congested cities to the poorest reaches of Africa, its Israeli inventor says.

“Izhar Gafni, 50, is ... an amateur cycling enthusiast who for years toyed with an idea of making a bicycle from cardboard ... his latest prototype has now proven itself and mass production will begin in a few months.

“Once the shape has been formed and cut, the cardboard is treated with a secret concoction made of organic materials to give it its waterproof and fireproof qualities. In the final stage, it is coated with lacquer paint for appearance.

“In testing the durability of the treated cardboard, Gafni said he immersed a cross-section in a water tank for several months and it retained all its hardened characteristics.

“Once ready for production, the bicycle will include no metal part ...’”

“Where did you get that article?” Elmer objected. “You been perusing those tabloids at the checkout counter? Looking for those magic cures to grow hair again?”

“No, this is the real deal. The article is from Reuters,” I defended. “And get this: The bike would sell for about $20. What an impact that could have on the third world!”

“How many speeds does it have?” Elmer countered.

“Well, only one. But maybe they’ll be able to develop multi-speeds in time,” I answered.

“A cardboard bike,” Elmer chuckled. “Well, maybe they’ll be able to make everything out of cardboard. Then those precious metals wouldn’t be so precious. Crooks would not target them anymore. But you’d better lock up them cereal boxes!”

I noted the rare experience in my mental diary: “Elmer in a happy mood today. Must be a full moon.”

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.