On Thieves, Tom Cruise, and Hot Pursuit

cruise running

One of the most bizarre things that has ever happened to me happened last night.

It was pretty late, and Sue and I had just finished watching some Netflix. As we were tidying up and locking doors, Sue said, “Is that a light on in the car?”

We looked out and, sure enough, the light was on. Which is odd, as the lights are supposed to go off. I was thinking I’d have to go out and turn off the light when a head pops up above the dashboard.

Now, if this had been a cartoon, we would have done a double take. I mean, seeing a head in your car – late at night – is so out-of-the-ordinary that I didn’t quite process what was going on.

So, the door closes and a tall, young looking shape ambles off down the street. And I mean ambled. Maybe strolled is a better word. Not a care in the world.

Sue, meanwhile, has her wits about her. Which is one of the reasons I married her. She opens the door and yells “Hey!” or something of that nature.

The guy continues to saunter.

Six of seven brain cells have finally begun to fire. I’m still thinking What? No. Really?, but at least I am moving out of the house to the car. I take a quick look at the car.

No damage, so we must have forgotten to lock it after unloading the groceries earlier in the day. Valuables from the glove compartment are neatly stacked on the passenger seat. And by valuables, I mean stacks of fast-food napkins that we will need “someday”.

And the parking change is gone from the console.

Sue, meanwhile, is yelling at the guy as he continues to meander down the street. By now, he’s about a half a block away.

Brain cell number seven fires, and I yell out “Hey!” Only it comes out kind of wimpy. So I yell again. “Hey!” And this time, I use my football coach voice, which I honed over many years of yelling at – I mean instructing – kids.

He glances over his shoulder. And continues to promenade down the street. In desperation to catch his attention, I bellow “Dude!”

He replies. “What?” And continues to perambulate.

“What do you think you are doing?” I ask. Which isn’t something that Schwarzenegger would say in a movie but I thought was a fair question.

“Just walking,” he says.

To be forthcoming, at this point I was incredulous. I mean here I was, in the middle of the night, having a very civilized, if yelled, conversation with a young fellow who just took a bunch of change from our car.

I decided to quicken my pace, and the chase was on.

And by chase, I mean … well, have you ever seen a Tom Cruise movie? You know how there’s the obligatory Cruise chases the bad guy on foot scene? And Tom is booking it and scenery is flying by? He dodges boxes and jumps over cars. All while not a hair moves out of place?

This was nothing like that.

In fact, this was the opposite of that. In this chase, the perp (I’ve learned cop lingo from watching Murder, She Wrote) was wandering down the street, with me marching behind him.

In all fairness, I wasn’t dressed for a chase. I was wearing a pair of shorts, an old man cardigan, ’cause it was stinking cold last night, and a pair of slippers. I dare Cruise to try and pull off that look in his next high speed pursuit.

No, this chase was a lot more … uh … OJ Simpson than Ethan Hunt. All I needed was a white Ford Bronco, and I could have made the news.

So the chase began.

I broke into a sprint. Now again, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m not fast. Even in my prime, which was a year or two ago, I wasn’t fast. Quick maybe, but not fast.

In fact, back in high school, I once scored a touchdown. Well, not to brag, I scored several touchdowns, but that’s not important. Anyway, I got back to the bench, and Coach Neher says “You were so smooth, it looked like you were barely moving.”

Which I don’t think was a compliment.

So, I broke into a sprint. Which is hard for me to do at the best of times but is really tough in slippers. I had to keep my toes flexed, or they would have fallen off. The slippers, not my toes. The toes are attached.

The dude turns his head, and I was pretty sure the chase was over. If he would have run at that point, there was no way I would have caught him. Heck, he could have simply gone from a stroll to a brisk walk, and he would have left me behind.

But, he just kept on moseying along. I saw him duck behind a transformer, so I slowed down and prepared myself for the worst. Unfortunately, all I could think about, self-defense wise, was “Keep your hips low.”

Which is good advice, if you are playing football. Or any sport, really. But maybe not so helpful in this particular situation.

I cautiously rounded the transformer, and there he was. Not menacing. Not reaching into his pocket for a weapon. Nope. Dude was lighting a little cigar.

I am not kidding. He pulls a little cigar (like an Old Port, Canada’s most popular little cigar when they used to sponsor the half-time CFL shows) out of his pocket and lights it.

Well, this was awkward. What do you say to a guy who stole loose change from your car and then you managed to hunt down after a not-so-high speed chase?

“Why did you break into my car?” I asked. Which, again, you won’t hear in a Dirty Harry movie. I thought it was appropriate.

“I didn’t,” he said. Although his eyes were up and to the right as he said it, so I didn’t believe him. Plus, we had seen him do it.

“Dude,” I said. “I saw you do it.”

And he hung his head. Yes, just like Charlie Brown.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. He was not threatening in any way, other than the fact that he was in his early to mid twenties, fit, and bigger than I was. He looked like a little boy who had just gotten caught stealing some cookies his Mom had told him not to take. Which maybe he had. Except it was change from a car.

“I shouldn’t have done that, should I?” he said.

No, you shouldn’t have. And I delivered a short, yet stern lecture. A lecture! Can you imagine that scene in a movie?

Hero: Give me the nuke!

Bad Guy: I don’t have the nuke.

Hero: I saw you take it. Besides, what are you holding behind your back?

[Bad Guy’s head slumps forward]

Bad Guy: You’re right. I shouldn’t have taken it, should I have?

Hero: No you shouldn’t have. You know, people work hard for the money to build their own nukes. You can’t just go around taking other people’s nukes. It’s not right. Why don’t you get a real job, earn your own money, and then build your own nuke? Trust me, you’ll have a greater feeling of accomplishment.

So, I finished my lecture and ended it with, and I am not making this up, “Son, I have to say I’m disappointed with your actions.”

And he was hanging his head a scuffing the ground with his shoe. “Sorry,” he said.

What would you do? It’s not like I had any plan to call the police.

“Hello, officer? Yeah, some kid took $14.72 in change from my car. No, he didn’t break in. I must have left it unlocked when I unloaded the groceries. Yes, I’d like him to do hard time for the theft of the $14.72.”

There was this sort of awkward silence. He turned to leave, and I said “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

He says “What?”

“I would like my money back.”

He puts his hand into his pocket and hauls out all the change he took. “This is all I took,” he said. “Honest.”

“Don’t do it again,” I said.

And we parted ways.

When I got back to the house, Sue had her phone in her hand, ready to call 911 if I had been attacked. Or, more likely, had a heart attack from the hot pursuit.

When I told her the rest of the story, we both laughed for a very long time.

What would you have done?

On Voting, Immigrants, And Communists


My [step]Dad was born in Russia in 1900. For you history buffs, this will let you know that his formative years were shaped by two major events: World War I (the war to end all wars) and the Russian Revolution.

Dad was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, so it was no surprise to learn that he finished school early and, by the time he was 18, was teaching school himself.

This was not good, according to the authorities. People in power were systematically killing anyone who was in a profession. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, and professors were being spirited away. Never to be seen again. Not one or two. Ultimately millions.

By tradition, Mennonites, with whom my Dad identified, are non-violent and peace loving. Not Dad, although he changed later on. He joined the Selbschutz (self defense), teamed up with the White Army, and systematically did away with as many Red Army soldiers as he possibly could.

Dad was eventually found out, and he escaped from Russia just a few hours in front of a massive manhunt. All very James Bond-ish and exciting for a young lad to hear.

This is all a long and involved way of saying that Dad hated Communists. Loved the Russian people but hated Communists.

When he made it to Canada, Dad spoke no English. His “papers” for his education were deemed useless, and he ended up working for a farmer. He taught himself to speak English without an accent (spoke with a mouth full of gravel to do it), went through teacher’s college, and became a teacher again.

This was a profession that he loved, and he taught for more than 40 years. Doubtless he touched many lives in a positive way. I know he did so for me.

Why so much info about my Dad? Well, I have discovered that my political views now are actually the same ones that I had in my youth. The same ones that Dad had a large hand in shaping.

When elections would come up, there was one hard and fast rule for Dad; governments are bad, so you should keep them as small as possible. Oh, and never vote for a communist.

This meant that, for as long as I knew him, he voted Conservative.

Liberals, he detested. This was the era of Trudeau. No, not that one. His Dad. Pierre Elliott.

To be fair, it wasn’t just my Dad who didn’t like him. I suspect that you wouldn’t have found many people west of Ontario who had any use for him. Except maybe some women. He was quite a dashing fellow (for a politician), and many women secretly thought he was pretty cool.

I never did ask my Mom what she thought of him. I liked him because he flipped off the people of Salmon Arm, BC.

Anyway, the Liberals had come up with many ways to screw the West out of any chance of being a “have” province, by taking Alberta oil revenue and Saskatchewan grain revenue and using it to fund programs that benefited the East.

I’m going from memory here, but I’m pretty sure those are the facts. Maybe they teach it differently in Ontario.

So, we did not vote Liberal.

We for sure did not vote NDP. For Dad, the NDP were Communists. Not just had more communist leanings. Nope. Actual Communists.

It didn’t help that the head of the NDP in Saskatchewan was Roy Romanow. Romanow, my Dad explained, was an English spelling of Romanov. As in Czar Romanov. As in the people who helped destroy his beloved Russia.

Not a Communist himself, but …

Well, we don’t vote for Communists. Ever. And for no reason. Verboten.

So, it was Conservative or nothing. And, as voting was your civic duty, it was Conservative.

All of this has, apparently, made a pretty solid impact on me. Without my knowing it – or maybe without really thinking about it – I have been a Conservative all of my life.

To be fair, I mostly agree with what (small “c”) conservatives believe; that governments should be small and stay out of people’s way. I am still arrogant enough that I think that I can do a better job of running my own affairs than anyone in Ottawa. Thank you very much.

The last few elections, however, have had me in a quandary. Which has made it tough, as I’m not 100% sure what a quandary is.

One problem has been the member representing my riding. While he may privately be a fine individual, I find his political leanings to be racist, fear-mongering, discriminatory, and other words that I shouldn’t use, as I like to keep these things rated at least PG-13.

As he is part of the Conservative party, this has made voting difficult. I can’t vote Liberal (they only do what’s right for Ontario), and I sure as hell can’t vote NDP. Because they are communists.

However, it is my civic duty to vote, so …


To be fair, it is not just the member in my riding that has me confused. The Conservative party is no longer conservative, at least in my eyes. Government is getting bigger, poking its nose into my business more and more. What I think of a US electioneering has become standard. Rhetoric is now all “us” vs “them”.

And somehow it is all the immigrants’ fault.

Oh, how quickly we forget that, unless you are a First Nations person, we are all immigrants. Likely you have a similar story to my Dad’s. Somewhere along the line, either by the necessity of fleeing for their lives, or a chance at a better future for their family, your ancestors came to Canada.

They often came with nothing. They often didn’t speak English. They were often professional people in “the old country”, but now could only get work as labourers.

I worked for an NGO for a number of years, and I can’t tell you how many doctors, lawyers, and judges have been cleaning toilets and emptying trash cans.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a labourer. It’s just that … ah, you know what I mean.

And as I read the rhetoric online (I don’t have TV, so at least I’m spared some of the BS. Not that it isn’t entertaining. And I’m guessing that comedians will have a ton of stuff to talk about. It’s just that I don’t need that crap in my life.), I’m struck by déja vu. 

Where have I heard this stuff before?

You know, we have to get them before they get us. Immigrants are ruining this once proud country. More government – with more power – is the only way to keep us safe. And other stuff like this.

Where have I heard it before? Oh yeah. Just south of the border, about a decade ago, from one George Bush, Jr.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the direction that our country is going. I have no interest in becoming US North.

I like the quaint ideas that Canada was built on. Ideas like welcoming immigrants as partners who can make this country better. Ideas like doing good in the world, to the point that Americans were sewing maple leafs (leaves?) on to their backpacks for better treatment abroad. Ideas like the armed forces can be used to keep the peace.

Crazy ideas like a person might need a hand up, at the beginning, but that that gesture pays off a thousand fold on the back end with hard working, loyal, and proud Canadians.

And so … who to vote for? It appears that I am actually going to have to think about it, this year. I’m not sure I agree with “my” party, anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with much that they stand for.

This only leaves a few other choices. And, unfortunately, I can’t vote Liberal, because they only do what’s best for Ontario.

And I sure as hell can’t vote NDP. Because they are Communists.