By Jim Hagarty
I drove into a nice shady spot at my favourtie fast food restaurant and opened my coffee, prepared for a nice 15-minute break. A car pulled in beside me. Its driver got out and peeked inside my open passenger door window.
“Hey Bud. Mind looking after my car?” said the middle-aged man, who, without hearing my answer, then walked away and into a nearby store.
I looked at his car. It was not a car that anybody needed to look after. In fact, I am going to guess that nobody had looked after it for a long time. But now I was looking after it. I had no information to illuminate the task I had been assigned, a job given to me casually by a stranger who offered me no option but to accept the challenge. Were the keys in the ignition? Was there a baby in a car seat in the back? A thousand dollars in silver coins lying on the seat?
Immediately, I imagined a horde of car wreckers lurking in the parking lot, waiting to launch a car invasion on the vehicle I was suddenly guarding. I went from relaxed coffee drinker to nervous car-watching pile of human misery in about 15 seconds. I didn’t know if I had what it would take to fight off a bunch of nasty auto vandals.
And here’s the thing. The car owner who had enlisted me in the serious business of protecting his mode of transportation, seemed to be in no hurry to return from the store. For all I knew, he worked there and had just started an eight-hour shift.
I finished my coffee and sat there. The car owner had found the one guy in this town who feels responsible for everything around him, twenty-four hours a day. I would have sat there for three full days watching that bucket of bolts simply because I had been put in charge. Finally, after almost another complete half hour, I came to the logical conclusion that the car owner’s words to me must have been the last he ever spoke. He had obviously been either kidnapped or murdered upon entering the store. Now, I had to worry about his kidnappers/murderers emerging bloodthirsty from the store. Seeing me watching the guy’s car, they would probably toss a grenade, or at the very least a stinkbomb, through my open window.
Wisely, at last, I got the hell out of there.
I seem to attract these kinds of assignments. This morning, a neighbour came to my door. Nicest guy I know. He has done a lot for me and my family over the years. He had a request. A FedEx truck was delivering a package from Spain and he had to leave. He gave them my name and wondered if I would be home to accept the delivery. I did have plans to not be home accepting FedEx packages from Spain, but here I am. Locked inside my home, staring out the window.
My neighour drove away. I have no idea where he is. For all I know, he’s sitting in shorts and straw hat at a seaside outdoor cafe, sipping sasparillas or mint juleps, and contemplating how good life has been to him. Either that or he is at the fast food restaurant, ransacking the car I had left unguarded there. Seems like that would be out of character for him but it is a crazy world. And I would like to know what it is he has ordered from Spain.
And you wonder why I am a wreck. I feel almost like I am one of those marks in a Just For Laughs TV prank or a Candid Camera episode. Pretty soon I will be directed to look into the disguised camera that has been trained on me all along. I will laugh uproariously.
Meanwhile, would you mind looking after this website for me? Hackers and such. Thanks. Now back to my mint julep. Which should be interesting as I have no idea what the hell a mint julep is. Or a sasparilla, for that matter.