Every Sunday our guest columnist not only pens these memorable words and provides the punchy pictures, he writes the headlines, too. So today, I must echo: What Paul says. Happy Mother’s Day! Take it away, Paul.
Your Barista – Paul
Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B have prepared a nice, warm, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is cloudy with showers and a high just over 50 F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger to warm up. We can relax with a cuppa while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a piece of cake (or any of the sweets on the next table) – electronic sweets are all calorie free!
A few years ago my Mum had business in Ottawa and came to visit over Mother’s Day. I arranged a special day by buying tickets for the Mother’s Day lunch on the Wakefield Steam train. This refurbished steam train from the 1800’s ran about 40 miles through the Quebec countryside to a small town called Wakefield, where there were many boutiques geared to visitors. Then after shopping, the passengers could ride back to Gatineau – where the train was based – while listening to a history of the train and to the music of the time period.
This took up the majority of the day, and we arrived back at supper time. My Mum had seen a movie advertised and wanted to go and see it while she was in town. We grabbed a quick meal and went down to the theater where it was playing. This is a privately owned theater that plays obscure movies, foreign films, philosophical and controversial pieces as well as the odd Golden Oldie. It has a byzantine schedule that is indecipherable – playing about 10 films arranged in blocks of three or four that repeated in some obscure rotation that meant no start time was ever the same. Between my Mother’s PhD and my Master’s we thought we knew what time our movie was playing. We arrived to find a different movie playing and already started. It was entitled “The Rape of Europa,” and I was sure it was going to be an X-rated film, but Mum wanted to see it – and so we paid and entered the dark theater, sitting beside an elderly woman in a rear row (so we wouldn’t disturb the patrons). The movie was about the Nazi’s theft of art and valuables as they marched through Europe in WW2 and it was fascinating. In fact it was so fascinating that Mum didn’t even put away her wallet and purse (she had insisted on paying since I had paid for the train ride), just set them in her lap.
When the movie was finished we were both amazed at this film and chatted as I dropped her at her hotel. I had turned off my cell phone in the theater and forgot to turn it back on as I headed home. When I got home, I figured I’d have a beer before going to bed. There were three cold bottles left in a case of 24 and it was a warm night, so I threw the case into the back seat of the car and sat having a smoke while I drank (I wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house and cigarettes and beer are made for each other). When I was done, I locked the car, leaving the case of empties in the back seat. I went to bed and as I was doing so, plugged in my phone and realized it was off. I turned it on and it beeped for a message. I checked and it was my Mum and she was upset. She had lost her wallet and wanted to go back to the theater. I accidentally erased the message and in so doing lost the hotel phone number. I called directory info and they said the number was not listed as the hotel had VOIP. I did not have access to the internet so I figured I’d call the non-emergency police line – given it was about a stolen wallet. So I did that and explained that I could not find the number and could they help – my Mum would be worried. The dispatcher checked the internet and told me he could not find the number either. I thanked him.
Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet? Anyway, thinking my Mum would call back, I lay down and shortly there was knocking at the door. Dressing, I answered the door and two female police officers were standing there – both looked very nervous. They asked if I had been drinking and, surprised, I told them I had three beer – not a lot at 250 pounds. They grilled me on the empty case in the back seat and I explained it had only had three in it. I was totally befuddled by this inquisition. Then they wanted to come in and I told them they had to stay in the entry way (some of my fellow boarders smoked pot and I did not need the hassle). They tried to walk past casually and I told them to stop or leave. They stopped. Both officers were very serious and much shorter than me and in the small entryway I had to look down at them. One appeared younger and she was playing with a flashlight in one hand – obviously thinking of the metal cased light as a weapon in case of a fight and kept dropping it. I knew better than to argue or disrespect them because they were on edge already.
Finally they got to the point – when my Mother couldn’t get hold of me, she had called the police and asked them to come and see me. They were sure that I had stolen my Mother’s wallet and used her credit cards to buy beer which I then consumed: all 24 in two hours’ time. I looked at them quizzically and asked if I appeared to have drunk 24 beer in the last two hours. Then I told them about the phone and accidentally erasing the number and then calling their dispatch. I could not go to the hotel because three beers was too many to drive and I had not been expecting to drive. I insisted they call their dispatch and verify that he could not find the hotel number either – apparently the hotel had just switched to VOIP. They did not believe me but did call and were surprised by the confirmation of my story. By this time they were calming down some and the young one hadn’t dropped the flashlight in 10 minutes.
They asked for ID and I provided it as they made notes. My wallet had disintegrated over the years and I had all my cards and money folded in my back pocket. When I pulled the stack out I apologized as I sorted through for my license. Now they were quite relaxed and laughed at my embarrassment. They had my Mother’s contact number and I dialed it. I told her the police were with me and gave a short version of what happened. I told her the wallet was likely on the floor in the theater but I couldn’t drive after the beer. She asked me to give the phone to the officer and she asked the officer to have someone check the theater for the wallet. They agreed but without enthusiasm. It was not nearly as interesting now that they weren’t chasing a drunken thief who had stolen his Mother’s wallet (at one point the two officers told me what a bad son I was for stealing my Mum’s wallet on Mother’s Day – eek!). Now that it was a lost-and-found assignment all the fun had gone from their night. Of course my Mum has been known to take the fun out of my night before as well – Ha!
Wishing me farewell the two officers departed chatting about what they had done for Mother’s Day. The next morning I picked up my Mum to take her to the airport. The police said they had looked for the wallet but had not found it. My guess is that they didn’t look – but who knows? Anyway, security became an issue – no identification. It took us a few minutes of frantic calling to get faxed hotel receipts – with a credit card imprint and a faxed copy of some spare ID kept by Mum’s friend in BC. Armed with this and the story, she managed to clear security.
It was my Mum’s theory that the woman sitting beside us had deliberately stolen the wallet. I pointed out that we sat beside her, she did not come and sit beside us. If she did take it, it was a crime of opportunity not planned. I believed the wallet to be lost not stolen. The wallet contained credit cards, passport, about $300, identification and other items. It was not a terrible loss but it was annoying and inconvenient. Anyway, off she went back to Vancouver. About a week later I was in Toronto and my phone rang – it was my Mum. She was ecstatic. The theater had called and while doing their weekly thorough cleaning had found her wallet jammed between two seats. I still believe that if the police had actually looked they would have found it. Anyway, it turned out that not one penny or card was missing – it was all there. She told the theater owner to please give the cleaner who found it a $40 reward from the wallet and to courier it to her collect. It arrived intact two days later.
As it turned out there are still honest people out there that would not spoil an otherwise excellent Mother’s Day. Oh, and if you cannot figure out a movie theater schedule, you are in good company.
That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.
Oh, I saw this commercial for the first time this week and I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. Gibber has one of the same breed. Have you seen this?