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?