Hey guys, JR here. Sorry, no Top 10 List today. I've been very busy and haven't had a chance to put one together yet. There may be one later on in the week, but I'm not promising anything. To make up for this, we're going to try something new (I say that a lot) and have a guest post by long-time community member Herr D. Let us know in the comments if you want stuff like this to continue and I'll endeavour to bring more of these posts as regularly as possible. But now I'll leave you in the capable tentacles of Herr D.
It is actually possible for someone to break no laws, do nothing malicious or alarming, act perfectly understandably and legally, and simultaneously to cause panic, higgledy-piggledy, scary rumors, and a police manhunt. Such things are more possible for an artist in financial trouble. This IS one of the goofiest things that’s ever happened to me. Or because of me. Whatever.
Being underemployed can be a very bad thing. Being caught up in your own head can be a very bad thing. Being hurried too much can be a very bad thing. Being all three can be very much worse. Here’s an example of three bad things that are worse together.
To set it all up, or, rather, me all up, you need to understand my situation. I had followed the woman who proposed to me halfway across the country into a lousy economic situation. My movie theater job was waning. Summer was ending, I was last hired, soon to be first fired. I was last pick to carry packages for my courier job, because I wasn’t available to go out of town and had no secure garage to keep my vehicle in. My temp job had just ended. My art wasn’t selling, but, then, nothing was selling in the area. I’d tried out for a quick-change gig that needed two people and came in third. I’d gotten a foreman to feel sorry for me, and he’d started me coming by his worksite and gathering trash into bags before the others started for minimum wage. I wasn’t sleeping much anyway.
I was getting ready to go into work at the movie theater when the phone calls started. Could I deliver a package between one and two p.m. the next day? Of course! My job interview wasn’t until three. I didn’t go in to the movie theater till four. YES! Could I come in the next morning at seven a.m. to work for five hours as a carpenter’s helper for the day? YES! Picking up trash had paid off. My fiancé called then. I told her I’d not see her at all the next day. I had work all day. She was annoyed and pleased and asked me how I’d be clean enough for the job interview. I cringed.
I hadn’t thought of that. The construction site had dust blowing over it all day. Jeans, t-shirt, and baseball cap had to trade up to business casual without coming home. I started to tell her I’d call back and cancel my delivery. She surprised me by not only not yelling at me (a good clue we weren’t doing well as a couple,) but telling me she’d make it happen. I picked up the package for the next day’s delivery and went to work. When I returned, I saw she had stopped by and left a few things on the couch for me. She called to explain. A washrag in a Ziploc wet with water and a bit of cologne to wash the face and neck. Another Ziploc containing my charged electric shaver to trim me and neaten me a little. My interview clothes laid out, my dress shoes in a plastic grocery bag. “Change in a gas station,” she said.
After printing out my resume and putting it on a clipboard, I took a look. My ice-sculpting gear was taking up the clothes hanger bracket on the passenger side for stability. The driver’s side had broken off before I’d purchased the car. I was going to have to get up early after staying up late, and I was already tired. I tightly rolled up my clothes, rather than hanging them, and packed everything into an overnight bag.
Well, that’s the setup. Now you get to see what all these things did piling up together:
Hurried and harried and staying slightly late at the construction site put me behind schedule. One gas station had a line at its restroom. The other’s was out of order. I was out of time with the delivery address being on the other side of town. I wasn’t going to look neat for the delivery.
I arrived to find out that the delivery address was a hotel. Why not change in THEIR restroom? I looked at the overnight bag, the awkward-shaped package, and the heavy, covered courier clipboard. Yeesh. I pulled a flat folded box out of the trunk, unfolded it, and put the overnight bag, courier clipboard, and the package in it. I shouldered the box and walked in.
The recipient had checked out. I borrowed the desk phone. The courier dispatch said to dispose of the package. I asked to use the restroom. The clerk said okay. I did a quick change and started to leave, The package and box, neatly folded up, were in the trash. The two clipboards and my bagged construction clothes and movie theater shirt were in the overnight bag. Shaven, feeling refreshed, I checked the time and realized I was early. I began to stroll out, all smiles.
Halfway to the door, I nodded at a nearby security guard as I heard a faint shout: “He’s not in here!” Baffled, I turned to look as another security guard trotted up to me and blurted out, “Did you see—never-mind sir!” He joined the first guard, had a quick, quiet confab, and they both ran off in separate directions. Mulling over interview questions as I looked, very pleased, at the wall clock, I walked outside. As I got in my car, a police car came roaring into the lot. I drove off feeling uneasy, like I’d forgotten something.
The most unbelievable thing happened. I got the job and promised to report to work as a graphic designer’s assistant the next morning.
I made it to work on time, changing nothing but my shirt in celebration (while I drove—without incident, but nonetheless inadvisable.) I worked my shift, leaving a note for a coworker to be ready to stay late to cover me if I called. I got home to the answering machine to find my fiancé had called to congratulate me. She had an early shift and hoped to see me for breakfast.
I went to buy my breakfast where she worked, full of hope. She was looking troubled, waiting on a police officer acquaintance of ours. He would brag about his exploits as a cop and tell us the latest news that didn’t make the news. Today was no different for him. He told us about this thing that happened on the edge of town. Some drug dealer with a whole boxful of drugs had gone into a fancy hotel, and, somehow knowing that the law was onto him, went into the restroom and shimmied into the air conditioning vents, not to be seen again. I suddenly felt unable to eat the breakfast I’d ordered. I choked it down, asking about a different hotel by name, hoping. The cop looked at me funny, as if I hadn’t been paying attention. He named the hotel I’d been at. Then my fiancé asked me what was wrong.
Aloud I said I had a new job and had to get going. That was enough for the cop. On the way out, I whispered I’d tell her ‘the other thing bothering me’ later.
On my way to my new job, I thought about it. I had been practicing quick change for the gig I didn’t get. That clerk had watched a dusty, dirty, disheveled, unshaven, and unwashed man wearing torn jeans, t-shirt, and a baseball cap, shouldering a cardboard box, walk into a restroom in a hurry with pursed lips. Forty-five seconds to a minute later, the clerk had watched a clean, mostly shaven, and combed man stroll out slowly, all smiles, with an overnight bag and a clipboard. He thought they were two separate
people. He thought I was two separate people . . . and hotel security and the police wound up doing a thorough search.
I missed my turns five or six times and so was late reaching my new job. Had I committed a crime? I couldn’t think what to call what I’d accidentally done. I arrived to find the door locked. I knocked on every door on the building till someone let me in a service entrance. Confused, I trotted around the corridors until I found the right office. The bank was setting up a computer so that an accountant could properly document the property and goods being seized. They were kind enough to tell me that I wouldn’t be working at that address today, and asked me if I would be so kind as to call them or the police immediately if I was contacted by the person who hired me?
So then I got to tell my fiancé that not only did I not have a job after all, I’d started a police manhunt and didn’t know for certain whether I had committed a crime or not. It wasn’t a fun weekend.
I was the faux foe of the ‘po-po.’ I didn’t actually commit a crime, but the whole ridiculous misadventure still makes me think. Did the police ever go through the trash and find the box and the discarded package of papers and resin figurines and the dusty paper towels and stubble? Did they continue the manhunt? How often do phantom crimes occur? I’ve no idea.