The Car Minder

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.

Mr. and Mrs. Lookalike

By Jim Hagarty

I was sitting in the food court of a shopping mall many miles from home today, catching up on some people watching, when a married couple in their 60s wandered over to a nearby table, sat down and started chatting with some folks they knew. I have never met this couple but I know they are married and have been for a long time. I know this because this man and woman could have passed for twins. Not identical twins, but pretty close. Similar hair styles and colour. Interchangeable, almost unisex clothing. Many mannerisms in common and they talked and laughed in almost perfect symmetry.

A younger couple at another table also resembled each other closely. Both skinny with long black hair and lots of tattoos.

One night a while back I spent an hour waiting in a movie theatre lobby and was shocked at how closely the middle aged (and younger) couples resembled each other. One man and woman both came in with sweaters hanging over their backs, tied in front by the sleeves. Another walked by wearing the same bright colour of yellow except that she wore yellow pants and he wore a yellow shirt.

Numerous couples had almost identical eyeglasses. Some sported leather, others khaki.

I am not the first to notice this phenomenon. People have been pointing this out for generations. But it is amazing to see, nonetheless.

How can it possibly happen that over time, not only the clothing but the physical features of two distinct people can become so blended? Two souls becoming one, perhaps.

For me, somehow, it’s a comforting thing to see. No individuality has been sacrificed and yet, the sum of one and one is greater than two.

Orange You Glad to See Me?

By Jim Hagarty

I am going to come right out and say it. Enough with holding it in. I hate Fanta orange pop.

Somebody got the brilliant idea to combine the urine of a mongoose with the sweat from an elephant’s ass, add some colouring and presto chango, the worst pop in Creation was Created. The difficulty this has caused in my life stems from the fact that I love orange pop. But someone in my family made the tragic mistake of bringing home a whole case of Fanta this summer and I have been traumatized. If the ridiculous stuff would take the rust off my bicycle rims like Coke does, I might use it for that, but, of course, it doesn’t. I guess the only good thing about it is the employment it gives to the mongoose and elephant populations of the world.

In my sadness and frustration, I have been forced to hang around my favourite hotdog stand this summer and getting tired of Coke, one day I asked for a glass of orange fountain pop. From the first sip, I knew I had found the Holy Elixir.

I have returned several times, as much for the orange pops as the hotdogs, and have spent many pleasant evenings with what have become my two favourite things to ingest. (And no, I do not subscribe to Health Food Monthly, thanks for asking.)

With the family all away at suppertime again tonight, I turned my car towards Hot Dog Heaven and walked up to the order window.

“I would like a regular hotdog, ketchup and relish only, and a small orange pop,” I told the nice young man peering out of the hole in a concrete wall at me.

“So, a regular dog and a Fanta,” he said to me.

“What’s that now?” I asked.

“Regular dog and a Fanta?”

“I guess,” I said.

The hotdog was great. Better than ever.

Pop seemed a little flat.

My Lofty Sky High Plans

By Jim Hagarty

I hate it when I have a good idea and somebody else gets to the patent office with it first.

A Canadian company has just been granted a U.S. patent for a 20-kilometre-high space elevator. Thoth Technology of Pembroke, Ontario., says the freestanding structure would allow astronauts to launch from a platform high above the Earth. The elevator will be pneumatically pressurized and guided over its base to allow such a tall and slender structure to stand freely.

The space elevator could also be used for wind-energy generation, communications and tourism.

Well, that all sounds pretty fancy but I wanted to build it because I love heights and to be in an elevator that stretches from Stratford to Mitchell would be a blast.

Oh, well. On to my other plan which is to built a giant escalator up one side of the Rocky Mountains and another down the other side.

Rats. I just gave away another amazing idea.