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Many years back, I used a bicycle to get to my college in England. One day though, when classes were over and I went to the bike shed, it wasn’t there any more. Some bastard had nicked it.

Anyway, a few weeks later I was outside keeping a close eye on the sparkling new bike that I had bought, and which was now leaning – unlocked - against the college brick wall. A 12 speed Raleigh racer. I was about 20 meters away.

Then it happened. A young man dressed like a pikey in a stupid tracksuit jumped onto the bike and started to peddle away.

“Oi! Come back!”, I screeched.

He didn’t come back of course, and peddled away as fast as he possibly could, the bicycle shuddering from side to side like you see on TV as the racers approach the finish line at a stage in the Tour De France.

The T-junction wasn’t far away. He would have tried to use the brakes of course. And then he would have realized that something was seriously amiss: the brake pads had been removed on both the front and real wheels.

The thief tried to use his feet to stop the bicycle. But it was no good. He had built up such a head of steam that it would have taken much more than his trainers to stop him. Something like a Ford Transit Van.

He screamed a final farewell, and then the gut-wrenching sound of flesh and bones smashing against thick sheet metal wielded together at Ford’s plant in Dagenham South East London. It seemed to happen in slow motion, and after what seemed an eternity, his battered body finally lay motionless at the side of the road in a pool of deep red blood.

Needless to say I didn’t bother to get the bike back, and instead headed off in the opposite direction and into the town center to check out the latest releases at my favorite record store, Beggars Banquet.

The reason I tell you this story is that it was the first time I have ever used dice in the decision making process.

I had recently finished reading Luke Rhinehart’s classic novel The Dice Man, in which the story’s protagonist uses a dice to help him make decisions. It fascinated me no end that the mere roll of a dice could determine future outcomes. And having my bicycle stolen gave me the perfect opportunity to put into practice what I had learnt in the book. My six choices had been:

1 buy a new bicycle
2 use the bus to go to college
3 walk to college
4 seek ultimate revenge
5 report the theft of my old bicycle to the police
6 borrow my cousin’s bike

The dice rolled 4 of course. And the rest is history.

I didn’t use the dice again for a number of years. Not until I was in Surabaya and met J. who became a very close friend. J. was an obsessive dice user and I soon got a dice for myself.

For a while I lived a very strange life. By day I wore a business shirt and tie to work, teaching English at a prestigious private university. But by night, I lived the life of a night owl in an unforgiving third world city. What I did depended on the dice. But while I had found ultimate freedom and was no longer constrained by the normal limitations of habit, routine and predictability, I was also losing control: the dice were making me do really crazy stuff. Where would I end up tonight?

Anyway, just before Christmas, almost exactly 10 years ago to the day, I found myself pretty much alone. Most of my friends had gone away. Again I used the dice, but, as it turned out, for the final time.

Luckily for me, the dice took me to Bali and I had a great time in hedonistic Kuta.

But on my return, I was informed that I had received an urgent call and had to telephone the university immediately. I did so and was informed that J. had died, od’ing on H in his kamar mandi (bathroom), only to be found the next day by his beautiful Manadonese wife after she had visited her parents.

I was gutted of course, and while I don’t want to go into the reasons here for his drug use, it certainly made me realize that some things are best not left to chance. I vowed never to use the dice again to make a decision.

One of the students called me and told me her father who had a business making coffins would be “honored” to make such a large coffin for my deceased friend. And so he did. J’s final resting place a Surabaya cemetery. God bless you mate.

What’s your lucky number?





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