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Missing van offers truth in a fog of medication

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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 19, 2000

Now I have proof.

I have suspected for years that my co-workers were hiding my car keys, glasses and checkbook.

Finally I caught one.

Well, actually, his co-conspirators ratted him out.

I was fighting off a flu bug last week when I returned from a doctor's appointment and, exhausted, stopped by my office to check my mail and messages.

About 30 minutes later, I came downstairs to find my new-used van missing.

Three factors come into play here.

First, I was awakened one morning two months ago to find that my truck (now my ex-truck) was really missing, so I was well aware of the possibilities of real van theft.

Second, I was so spacey from whatever bug was eating my brain that it was entirely likely that I really had forgotten where I parked. That's why it isn't unusual to see me standing looking lost and forlorn in mall parking lots where the only reassurance I have is that if I wait till closing time, my vehicle will be the one that is left.

And, finally, just as I had given up my usual parking places and begun a cursory search of the area (while my friends, co-workers, and victims-to-be of revenge gathered at the upstairs window of the office and snickered), I was surprised to see two friends turn up that I had last seen at a gathering after the death of someone we all loved and where they had expressed concern for my, well, anesthetized condition. (Note here, I had a designated driver that day.)

"Hey," they said as they got out of their car, "how are you?"

I looked at them blankly, saying, "I can't seem to find my van."

"Isn't it where you parked it?" one of them asked.

"I don't know," I said. "I'm not sure where I parked it."

I saw what they thought was understanding starting to form on their faces.

"Have you been taking medication?," they asked.

"Yes," I said, "because I have the flu."

They nodded knowingly, as it dawned on me what they were thinking.

"No, really," I said. "I really do have a bug of some kind. Honest. That's all it is. Wait a minute, I think that's my van over there. Yep, that's it."

My friends, exchanging concerned looks, walked away. I'm pretty sure I heard one of them ask the other if I should be driving.

The culprit, it turned out, is a co-worker still smarting over an incident a couple of years ago where he was questioned by police simply because he had the same first name as that used by a person who had telephoned in a bomb threat.

He's a little miffed because, when he and his lawyers and the investigating officers were all having lunch at the same restaurant and eyeing each other suspiciously across the room, I, forewarned, showed up wearing a Che Guerara T-shirt and loudly voicing my support for my downtrodden brother.

Exposing someone to a further investigation of whether they should go to prison, I hold, is just good clean fun.

Hiding vans is serious business.

Stay tuned.

And I can't let pass without noting a legal decision last week in which a judge ruled that an airline could charge a fat passenger for more than one seat if the passenger needs more room than that available in a regular seat.

Gee, one of the first things I learned from the Fat Guy's School of Hard Knocks and Air Travel is, when flying tourist, immediately pull up the armrest between you and the next seat. That way you can overflow into that passenger's space and, unless he or she is hip to the armrest trick, get away with it.

I see the airlines' point, but there ought to be some reciprocal law that says that, until they give us seats and legroom appropriate for normal sized human beings, we only have to pay them a portion of the regular fare.

Hold your breath waiting for that one.

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