Bus Stops and Abandoned Backpacks

“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.” -P. G. Wodehouse

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This is one of those stories.  You know the kind.  The type where you sit around a pub table at night, talking about things that you still find a little hard to believe.  Yet, you know that it is probably in your best interest to keep these sorts of stories from your Mom.  Because, well, keeping your parental figures from having heart attacks is in everyone’s best interest.  Darn it though, anecdotes want to be told.

I find it rather relaxing to take leisurely strolls.  On one particular route, I rarely encounter another person on the sidewalk.  There is only one stoplight between myself and home.  The route has trees, long stretches of pavement, and is quite low in stress.

Except for that one time.

bus-stop-1452777239g7iThere is a bus stop just as the road curves.  Rarely does a bus stop there in the evenings.  Crowds of people do not cram into that little depot.  It sits quietly, unassuming, content to be whether or not it is serving any real purpose.

On that particular day, its purpose was to play host to a backpack.  It was a rather large, black backpack.  There was no host, no people meandering about that would quickly return for the bag.  It was an abandoned item; a mysterious package.

I have found items of value before and I try to return them.  Thus I unzipped the main pouch, and found large amounts of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Plenty of the stuff filled into that backpack.  I really think half of the weight was made of these cans sloshing about.

I started to walk, thinking it would be easier to find some ID at home.  But the bag was heavy and I was curious.  So I opened a second pouch, moved some more Hard Lemonade, and kept trying to arm myself with more information.

Which is when I found the gun.

There are plenty of people who would be alarmed at the steps I had already taken.  “Don’t you listen to the intercom system at any airport?  Like, ever?  Report unattended items!  It could be a bomb!  See something, say something!  Call the cops!  You could have died.”

cardboard-box-155480_960_720Calm down.  People call in bomb threats to create a sense of panic.  They want a sense of fear to permeate the world.  If they can get on the news for forcing a building to be evacuated, then they win.  The world gets shaken up and they get their little excitement.  If they are really determined, then they will make an actual bomb and see how much carnage they can create.

This bag was in the middle of nowhere.  No pedestrians, no houses, located at the base of a rather bare hill.  If it had been a bomb, they would have claimed exactly one victim.  Apologies, but I am not spiffy enough to warrant my own headline, I do not care how slow of a news day it is.  There is a twisted logic to causing terror, and in my estimation, there was no payoff for anyone to leave the bag there.  So that was my thought process when I unzipped the thing.  Take precautions, sure.  But shirk panic.

I once had a woman come into my store.  She was very concerned and nervous.  She asked if I would call security or the police.  When I pressed her, she pointed to a black plastic box sitting outside our door.  It was a mouse trap.  We have them all over the building.

All that said, I do hate guns.  I had no desire to see if it was loaded.  I know enough not to handle a firearm without knowing if it is loaded and I certainly did not want my fingerprints on any more items than they had already touched.

The paranoid folks that worry about bombs will be pleased to know that my concerned side kicked in as I put the cans back in the bag.  What if the owner comes back now?  What if they see me walking down the sidewalk with their gun?  Is this a violent individual who will chase after me and might be carrying a second gun?  What if a child comes across this bag and finds the gun?  Do I need to worry about drugs or other weapons in the bag?  Do I really want to walk this a few miles home?

I wanted that bag gone.  And the closest business was only a few blocks away.

Picture if you will.  You are sitting in a residential business.  You have less than an hour left in your shift.  You have cleared off the clutter of your desk for the day.  Maybe you need to make a phone call or two, telling customers their requests have been fulfilled.  You start pining for the weekend that just cruelly ended; far too soon for your liking.

business-1067978_960_720Then a young man walks through the door.  He is carrying a large bag.  You have never seen this man before.  He comes up to you and says, “I need to use your phone to call the police.  Is that okay?”  When you point to the lobby phone and mildly ask what is happening, he tells you things you would rather not hear.  Things like, “There’s something in, I, the police need to come get this.”  You look to your supervisor, raise your eyebrows a bit, and reply, “If it is a bomb, I’m not sure I want it in here.”

Poor gal.  All the people in the city that carry phones with them and she gets visited by the one guy who does not.  I made the call brief though.  I went outside the building, as far from their business as I could, and waited for the police to arrive.

Not too much later, along came a police SUV.  A calm and pleasant officer approached me, put on her blue gloves, and took the bag.  I gave her a brief recap, pointed to the areas that my hands had touched, and made sure she knew what section the gun was in.  She took it and made her way back to the station to x-ray it.

I considered myself the good little citizen.  I had followed my Sesame Street training and called the authorities.  For all the news stories and controversies about police there are out there, I am glad that there is someone to call when weapons are found.  I decided that all was well, even if I was a little worried about the kinds of people that were out there leaving backpacks with weapons.  Were they part of some Hunger Games-esque, underground reality show where they had to kill or be killed?  Were drug runners moving in and expanding their territory?  Had a government drop off been intercepted?  No matter what my imagination contrived, the gun was off the streets.  No shootings today.

I received a phone call from the officer an hour later.  It had not been a gun.  It had been a paintball gun.  (Which, in my definition, is still a gun.  See the second word there?  Gun.  But I let the officer define terms since it is her field.)   Some ID was inside, so they were calling to have the belongings picked up.

I can sense the admiration from here.  Clearly I am a hero for the masses.  Saving the world from… getting little dots of color splattered on clothing.  Stay back Captain Kirk, I got this!  No red shirts today!  Recreational sports equipment, fear my might!  Rawr!

I shook my head and went back to my life.  The drama had resolved itself, all except for one tiny detail.  What the sam hill was with all that lemonade?

The Craziest Knees Ever

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Craziest Knees Ever

In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stu had a quirk about him that he sometimes found annoying.  He would sit on the couch, look at his toes, and sigh.  When other people sat on a chair, bent their legs, and looked at their feet, their feet touch the ground.  When Stu did the same, his feet were right in front of him.  His toes wanted to touch his eyes, his forehead; they infringed upon his mouth-space when he was trying to eat.  You see, Stu’s knees bent the opposite way of everyone else’s.

The medical journals had clamored to document Stu’s kneecaps when they heard of his condition.  In every other way, Stu was a perfectly healthy boy.  However, there they were; a pair of kneecaps on the back of his legs.  The doctors had refused to operate when he was young because there are areas around the knee that do not take to repairing themselves.  The cartilage in particular was a cause of concern; the experts believed that it wouldn’t adhere if they attempted any surgery and Stu wouldn’t have been able to walk.  Stu remained the same thing that he was upon birth; a singular medical curiosity.

Stu was able to walk, but it had taken him years to perfect a gait that suited him.  Since his feet rose up to meet him instead of reaching out of for the pavement, Stu learned not to bend his knees at all.  His long walk gained him the nickname of “Cowboy”, and he welcomed it.  Not long after, Stu was wearing Wrangler Jeans and cowboy boots.  He took on a saunter and kicked his legs out in long, slow, patient strides.

Running was an entirely different manner.  Once he started bending his knees while running; let alone walking, his balance was ruined.  If he was trying to step forward, his feet scurried to meet his face and he was guaranteed to plummet towards the ground.  However, if he lifted his thighs backwards, and then his calves; then the lower part of his leg would reach out for the pavement.  Stu was the only person that had an easier time running backwards than forwards.  However there still remained the problem of watching where he was going.  Stu found it tiring to crane his neck back and forth to see where he was off to.  This was especially true if he tried to go jogging on trails surrounded by speedy bicycles, other joggers, and mothers with double-wide strollers.  He tried to content himself with walking his controllable walk.

If nothing else, Stu’s knees made him creative.  Stu couldn’t operate a normal bike.  There is an arc of movement required for most bicycles that Stu’s legs were incapable of achieving.  Since he couldn’t change how his legs work, he adjusted how his bicycle operated.  It really was an achievement in the basics of bicycling.  Stu sat rather low to the ground, his seat just high enough that he could skip over rocks and mounds of dirt.  The wheels were still in front and behind him, but for Stu they were at eye-level.  (Whenever he thought there would be puddles on the road, Stu wore a helmet that adorned his attire face so that he wouldn’t have dust and mud to wipe off afterwards.)  The pedals and gears sat right in front of Stu’s field of vision and he let his legs pedal furiously in front of him.  Thanks to Stu’s mechanical skills, he was able to bike as fast as any other person, and he was a good head or two lower on his seat, thereby reducing the annoyance of low-hanging branches.  He did, however, lament the fact that he could never read a unicycle.

Sitting would consistently be a problem for Stu.  Unless he put his legs out in front of him, which was understandably tiring after a while, Stu was forced to stare at his feet.  The human body is not made to pump blood into feet that are reaching for the sky and so Stu’s legs would soon start to go numb.  He tried wiggling his toes to get the blood flowing, but it could never put off the weakness in his limbs for as long as he liked.  Also, he didn’t enjoy having his shoes in the way when he was trying to put this food in his mouth.

In the end, Stu wound up with only stools and beds to rest upon in his house.  Couches and recliners were objects he would have liked to enjoy, but knew that he never could.  When people invited him out to socialize, Stu always requested that they sit at the bar, never in a booth.  Stu’s legs could stick out, unbent on stools.  Booths or chairs in a restaurant were quite impossible for him, he simply couldn’t sit there.

However Stu asked that people not feel too sorry for him. He obliged his friends when they made jokes about Stu being so nimble that he could touch his toes.  He made jokes about his ability to count to twenty without looking down.  And, if one is to look in the record pages, they will find Stu.  Given his unique angle and their close proximity to his hands and eyes, there is no one in the world that can cut their toenails faster than him.

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