It was like that one Volkswagen commercial. You know, the one that reintroduced Trio’s “Da Da Da” to a nation that had forgotten a group called Trio ever existed. There were differences, of course. (If there hadn’t been, I would have said, “It was that one Volkswagen commercial” and been done with it.) For one thing, I was alone, so I had no one to react to (or to react to me). For another, I was on foot, so I didn’t have a car to tool around in. And do I have to mention that my misadventure was not scored by any '80s music whatsoever? (Well, I suppose I could have had a boom box or a Walkman or whatever portable device people use to listen to music nowadays, but I didn’t, so now I have cleared that up.)
So there I was, walking along. (I can’t say I was minding my own business because I wasn’t. I was looking around at everything while I walked.) I was in a semi-commercial area, with a mixture of businesses and houses, so I wasn’t too surprised when I started coming across people’s garbage, which had been set out by the curb. (It was early enough in the morning that the sanitation crews hadn’t taken it away yet.) What did surprise me was the intact computer chair I found beside the dumpster of one of the businesses.
(Okay, I admit I had to go around back to find it, but it wasn’t like I was trespassing or anything. I didn’t have to jump a fence or sneak in anywhere. And the chair was being thrown out. It even had a handmade sign taped to the back of it that said, “TRASH.” Anyway…)
Remembering the Volkswagen commercial all too well, I decided the best course of action was to find out what was wrong with the chair before I did anything else. I carefully sat down in it to make sure it wouldn’t collapse. I moved it to a level part of the blacktop to make sure its legs weren’t uneven. (Another difference: the legs on my chair had wheels.) Finally I performed the all-important smell check, which the chair passed with flying colors (and believe me, I was most thorough when it come to this part).
Removing the “TRASH” sign and tossing it into the dumpster (I’m no litterbug), I decided to take the chair home and make it my own. Not that I had a computer, mind you, but one can never have enough chairs. (This, incidentally, is where my story and that of the Volkswagen commercial diverge, never to re-verge. In fact, I may have oversold the whole Volkswagen connection and for that I humbly apologize.)
Striking out for home, I used the chair’s wheels to their best advantage and pushed it ahead of me. This was fine as long as there was a sidewalk (I was on a busy road that was approaching rush hour, so I was wary of going out onto the shoulder), but when I came to a lawn that was all grass, I had to lift the chair up over my head like I was portaging a canoe. Those were the times when I most wished I had a companion to share the load. We could have even taken turns.
From time to time I got tired enough to take a break and was glad to have the chair to sit on. It was during one of these stops that an extraordinary thing happened. A man pulled up in a car, got out and approached me. At that moment I was sitting in front of a vacant lot and I half-expected the man to tell me to clear off. Instead he stopped about four feet away from me and held out a piece of paper.
“Here’s that form you were looking for, sir,” he said and let the paper drop to the ground. Without saying another word he returned to his car and drove off. Fortunately there was no wind, so the paper didn’t blow away. I bent down to pick it up and saw that it was, in fact, some kind of form (although I must confess I had no idea what it was for).
As I attempted to puzzle it out, a second car pulled up and this time a young woman got out. I saw that she was carrying a mug of some sort. I was immediately apprehensive.
“Morning, sir,” she chirped as she got closer. “I made it just the way you like it: one cream, two sugars and piping hot.” She started to set it down on a desk that she apparently thought was between us.
Acting quickly in defense of my crotch, I cried out, “Thank you, I’ll take that!” and grabbed the mug out of her hand. This didn’t seem to phase the woman, who merely asked if that would be all and, since I didn’t say anything, left of her own accord.
My third and fourth visitors were a pair of policemen who pulled up in their squad car. I briefly considered dumping the coffee and making a break for it, but figured that would only make me look guilty. Besides, I still wanted the chair and knew I wouldn’t be able to flee with it.
In a misguided attempt to act casual, I tried putting my feet up on the nonexistent desk, but that didn’t work out too well. The policemen kept a little bit of distance at first. Perhaps they were worried that I was planning on using my coffee as a weapon. (This didn’t occur to me at the time, only in retrospect.) I wondered if they were going to play a “good cop, bad cop” routine or whether they were going to let one of them do all of the talking. They went with the latter.
“How are we this morning, sir?” the cop asked.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said. “Just sitting here, enjoying my coffee.” I took a sip. It was good coffee.
“That’s good. You’re not having any problems, are you?”
“Oh, no. Not at all, officer. I have no complaints.”
“That’s good, sir. May we ask…” He looked to his partner, who seemed older, for guidance. Apparently I was dealing with a rookie who was being shown the ropes. The second cop nodded at the first, who looked back at me. “May we ask where you got that chair?”
“You certainly may, officer. I found it.”
“Found it? So you mean it’s not yours?”
“Oh, no. It’s mine. I found it in the trash, so I’m taking it home.”
“Doesn’t look like you’re taking it anywhere, sir.”
“That’s because I’m resting. I’ll be on my way in a minute, officer. Right after I finish my coffee.” I took another sip. I suddenly realized how odd this must have looked to them. Surely they didn’t think I had stolen the chair, but how could I prove that I hadn’t? Thankfully, before I had to worry too much about that, the young woman drove up again and sprinted over to bail me out.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she said, walking around the invisible desk to stand at my side, “but Mr. Coffey is an extremely busy man. If you wish to speak with him, you’ll need to make an appointment.”
The two policemen conferred and then the older one spoke. “Very well, we will. You have a good day, Mr. Coffey.”
And with that, they left. The young woman, who I suppose thought she was my secretary, stayed behind and was extremely contrite.
“I’m very sorry about that, sir. They must have barged in while I was down in the mail room. It won’t happen again.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I don’t think they’ll be back. Do you have my mail?”
“Oh, I left it on my desk. I was just sorting it when I heard voices in here. I’ll bring it right in.”
“Thank you,” I said and watched as she got in her car and drove off again.
I waited until she was completely out of sight and carefully set the coffee mug down on the ground (it was a perfectly good mug, so I saw no reason to break it) and, taking my place behind the chair, I took off like a shot. I got off the main road as quickly as I could and stuck to the side roads all the way home. By the time I got in, The Price is Right was on, so I rolled the chair into place in front of the TV and collapsed into it. I barely had time to catch my breath before my roommate – who was sprawled on the couch behind me – spoke up.
“Hey,” he said, “I’m watching that.”
I mumbled an apology and rolled out of his line of sight. We watched the show until after the first Showcase Showdown, at which point he muted the TV and looked at me.
“Hey,” he said. I looked back at him. “That’s a nice chair.”
“How much did it cost?”
“Less than you would expect,” I replied.