Why it is that I always end up being accused of stealing things, I have not the slightest. It has somehow become carved with a heavy hand, unable to be rubbed off over time, on the minds of everyone in existence that I am a thief by trade! The accusing finger is always pointed in my direction the very moment anything is found missing. This is the very thing that happened to me two weeks ago while staying on board a Caribbean cruise ship. My vacation, “which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me,” (to borrow the words of the apostle Paul on a totally unrelated subject).
I was wearing my favorite boater hat which I often wear on occasions such as this. One evening the wind was particularly strong as I was walking along the aft of the ship. So it should come as no great surprise that my hat blew off of my head and got caught on something near the ship’s edge. I was extremely relieved not to have lost my much loved hat. Stooping to retrieve it, I stuffed it into the inside of my jacket so I wouldn’t lose it again. I then went to my room to fix my disheveled hair and hopefully find a way to remedy the situation of letting hats fly off of heads.
Let me back up for a minute, I’m afraid I missed a very important point of the story. A few hours before this happened I had heard a rumor that the man a few door down from me had been robbed. All right, back to where I was.
Opening the door of my room, I stepped over to the mirror and began working on my hair. It was several minutes before the realization came to me that I was in the wrong room. Cruise ship cabins are all the same, you know. The room, if anything, had seemed a bit cleaner than it was when I had left. But, I had just supposed that the-what do you call him? You know, the chap that has a way of keeping your room clean without ever being seen . . . steward, that’s it! I had just supposed that the steward had done his duty.
As soon as I realized my mistake, I grabbed my hat and hurried out. It came as a great alarm when I bumped into someone entering the room on my way out. “What?” exclaimed the man! I was so caught up in the unusualness of the situation that, without a thought, I dashed off and took refuge in my room. I had just reached my place of safety when pounding fists embraced my door. After looking around the room to insure that there was not way of escape I swallowed hard and proceeded to open the door. After all, I would just have to explain my mistake and after a good bit of jovial laughter from all parties, all would be well. Opening my door, I found my unwelcome visitor. For a minute or two I felt much like the spies sent into the land of Canaan must have felt when they first set eyes on its oversized inhabitants. This guy was huge!
“What were you doing in my room, huh? Stealing more of my stuff?”
“G-give me a moment and I can explain everything.”
“Explain what? What explanation do you think I am going to accept from you, when you’re holding my alpine hat in you hand? Thieves these days don’t even know how to hide the evidence. I see nothing that you can explain. You will either return everything you have taken or pay a large sum of money for it. If you have not done either of these things by three days from now, I will turn you in to the police! Have I made myself clear?
“Oh yes, quite.” I said shrinking under his enormous shadow.
How the straw boater hat that had been in my hand a few moments before had turned into a red alpine hat I had not the slightest idea. But the so called evidence was heavy against me.
Reviewing the situation I found that I must appear very guilty. It’s not everyday that you find someone escaping your room with stolen hat in hand. Furthermore, any level-headed innocent person wouldn’t have tried to escape into the refuge of their room as I had done, because that would lead to suspicion. He seemed convinced that I had taken more then the hat. At this point I saw no way out of it; I would have to pay the money. It occurred to me that this was the man that was robbed earlier that day, and he thinks that I am the one who robbed him. I could try to explain the mistake, but how would he believe me when I had accidentally taken his hat? Perhaps if he found my boater hat in his room he will believe me when I tell him that I grabbed the wrong hat in my haste. It was certainly worth a try. I bravely knocked on his door and pleaded my cause.
“You’re asking me to believe that you walked into the wrong room by mistake?” he exclaimed, “Preposterous! Why do you have my alpine hat?”
“I grabbed the wrong hat in my hurry to get out. I’m sure, if you look in your room, you will find my boater hat.” The question should have arisen as to why I was in such a hurry to get out in the first place, but the question, surprisingly, didn’t arise.
He popped into his room and then out again, holding the hat. I cannot express the feeling of relief I had. He would now be disposed to believe my story.
“Is this the boater hat you were referring to?”
“Oh, yes, absolutely!”
“Why, pray tell, does your hat have my name written on the inside?”
“Huh?” I said heart-sinkingly, “you’re name?”
“Yes, my name.”
What had happened, I suppose, was that my boater hat had actually gone overboard, and the one that I found close to the ships edge must have been this one. He must have lost his hat. And I, by a slip-up, thought it to be the hat which I had lost. Then, by the mistake of my walking into the wrong room, it ended up in the room to which it originally belonged. All evidence had turned against me. All I had left to do was pay the money. But, where was I to get such a large sum?
A few minutes later I sat on my bed contemplating where to get the much needed money. Then an agreeable idea came to me. My uncle, whom I had never met, had for some time been trying to get me to come visit him. I had heard much of this uncle. He was a very wealthy man, who was always willing to lend a helping hand or a sum of money to anyone in need. I was beginning to realize that this was a quite a convenient uncle to have. I would certainly oblige him with a visit, get the required money, and be out of the soup in no time.
It was relatively easy to set up a visit with my uncle. The cruise ended the next morning and I stood awaiting the train. I walked a few yards from my bag to make sure I was in the right place. When I returned, everyone was boarding. I grabbed my bag as quickly as I could and proceeded to hop on the train. As I was doing so I realized that someone was shouting behind me. The train was about to pull out, so I hopped on and looked behind me. To my surprise the shouting man was pointing at me! I couldn’t make out what he was shouting about, but the train was soon skimming the county-side and I didn’t think any more of it.
When I arrived at my uncle’s place (my uncle had sent a cab to get me), I walked up to the door and knocked. When at last the door was opened, I was told that my uncle was out and would be back shortly. In my room I opened my bag, intending to unpack and settle in. I soon realized why I had been shouted at in such a manner at the train station. The belongings in this bag were not mine! Apparently I was involved in a mix-up. There was no address to be found on the bag, so it was worthless to try to return it.
Another big shock came when I met my uncle (as if I hadn’t had enough surprises already).
“Why, you’re the one who stole my bag at the train station today!” my elderly uncle exclaimed.
I thought he looked awfully familiar. My first thoughts were that this was quite convenient, because I could now give him back his bag. Then it hit me.
“Did you say stole?” I asked, worried.
“Yes, I had no idea my nephew was a bag-snatcher! It looks like you made the wrong choice of bags this time. You ran right into a trap.”
“But I didn’t steal your bag” I protested, “I just grabbed the wrong one by accident.”
“How can I know that you are telling me the truth?”
My thoughts turned heavily to the money I was expecting to receive from him. Unless I came up with some proof that I was not a bag-snatcher, I wasn’t going to receive any money here. Because money was forefront in my mind, the question naturally flowed from my mouth without “wrong timing” even entering my thoughts.
“Surely you will believe me,” I said, “I didn’t steal your bag. I’ll give it back to you now if you like. Oh, before I forget, could I touch you for a few hundred bucks?
“We will forget the affair of the bag,” he replied; “you may be innocent after all. As to the money, I’m afraid I cannot lend to a likely bag-snatcher. Why do you need the money anyway?”
I told him the entire lengthy story.
“Sounds like you’ve been attempting to steal hats too, huh?”
“No, it was another mistake. How can I get you to believe me?”
Needless to say, I didn’t extend my stay at my uncle’s place. It was no use trying to squeeze money out of him. I traveled next to the house of my aunt who lives only a few miles from there. When I arrived I was greeted by my aunt familiar sweet voice. She was more on the poorer side then my uncle, and would be much less likely to throw her money around; still I was confident that she would be willing to lend money to her beloved nephew if there was good reason for me to have it.
“Boy how you’ve grown.” She exclaimed. (I could easily have disagreed with this statement, but I left it alone.) “Have you been saving your money for the big Africa trip?”
I shock went down my spine-Africa trip! That was the answer! You see, my aunt had wanted me to go with her to Africa the following summer and I had been dreading it. It’s not that I didn’t want to go to Africa, but because I am enormously fearful of airplane travel and would rather skip the vacation to avoid it. I had not wanted to admit my chicken-heartedness to my aunt and as of yet hadn’t told her. I had however been saving the money to oblige her.
“Yes, I have been saving the money but I’m afraid I won’t be able to go with you. I came to tell you that I need to use the money to get out of a jam” (This was perfect!) “It seems I have been wrongfully accused of stealing some things and need money to stay out of jail.”
“You what?” my aunt exclaimed.
“I accidentally stole someone’s hat, and have to pay for it. It happens to be a very expensive hat. And the guy firmly trusts that I have stolen more from him than the hat.” I went on to explain the whole story. She nodded her head gravely.
“Boy how you do get into situations! I see your problem, and I’m sorry to have to accept your solution. I guess I’ll just have to get your sister to go with me.”
I took a trip to the post office later that evening to send the money. When I returned home, I poured myself a glass of orange juice and sank deep into my chair to celebrate. I had not only paid my debt but got out of my airplane trip as well. Life is good! That is to say, life was good. I soon received a phone call that put me into another one of my situations, but I had a few moments of happy freedom and rest, so I won’t complain.