Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Pocketbook Caper

Dumpster diving was nothing. Last night’s adventure begins with a cancelled meeting. Last minute cancellation, no notification, only a sign posted on a board once we get inside the church building.
We walked back to Park Street station through the Gardens and the Common, sharing an umbrella as a light drizzle grew stronger, then tapered off. We waited in Park Street, took the Red Line home to Quincy, stepped off the train at our station, and Anne announced she was no longer in possession of her pocketbook. We scream at the conductor; the train pulls away.
Downstairs, the station minder made some calls, and then we made some calls, but no one reported finding the pocketbook on the train. Around 10 p.m. Anne gets the idea to call her cell phone number. And a few minutes later we get a call.
“Did you just call this number?” a voice asks. “We’ve got your phone.”
Overjoyed! What a relief! How can we get it back?
But, overhearing the call, I get a funny feeling. The guy on the phone doesn’t identify himself, doesn’t say he’s calling from the MBTA, gives only a first name when asked for his name, and can’t come up with a street address for his building.
He says we can come get the pocketbook.
“Ask him for the street address!” I coach from the sidelines, hopping up and down on one foot in agitation. “How are we going to check it out?”
“Kenmore Square,” Anne says into the phone, repeating some information. “Beacon Street.” She hangs up.
“Please tell me you got a street address?”
“I got an intersection.”
She tells me some street names. An intersection, if it’s a major one, can have maybe 12 or 13 addresses, buildings, businesses, whatnot, on its various corner points, I point out. This one is major, Beacon and Chestnut Hill Avenue. We find it on a map. It’s a long way from Kenmore Square.
Nevertheless we get on the road; drive the expressway, take Storrow Drive to Kenmore Square, turn onto Beacon Street. It’s late enough by now so the streets have little traffic. We fly through the lights, drive through the darkness. It’s still a long way.
I’d been imagining out destination would be some busy T office in busy Kenmore Square. I’ll wait in the car and we’ll be out of there in minute and speeding cheerily back home. Now I think, “You’re not going in there alone.”
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I told him my husband is coming with me.”
Great, we’re safe now. “Did you tell him your husband is packing?”
More dark streets. I begin to have second thoughts about the whole expedition. What I’m thinking is…
So this guy, let’s call him first-name “Pete,” calls up and says he has her phone – which he easily could have acquired in any number of ways – and he doesn’t say he works for the MBTA until Anne explicitly asks him, and when she asks his name give his only first name, and when she asks him his office’s address can only give an intersection, and when she asks him what the building looks like says it’s “a station.” And who also says we can come pick up her pocketbook any time all night…
So while I’m driving down Beacon beyond Coolidge Corner, beyond Harvard Street, beyond any place in Brookline or Brighton where I’ve ever been, the headline I’m seeing in my mind is “Two White Middle-Class Idiots Murdered in Pocketbook Scam.”
I have half a mind to turn the car around.
When we finally get to this promised intersection, driving along the streetcar tracks, Green Line cars scattered everywhere as if suddenly abandoned by drivers who felt a pressing need to do something else, stores and buildings and businesses (as predicted) all over the place, cars parked everywhere with nobody in them and nobody on the sidewalk because it’s late, and no MBTA station anywhere, no T signs on any of the buildings, I ask, politely, “So where the hell is it?”
“I’ll call him,” she says.
I nose the car around a few parking areas; no place to park, and back out onto the avenue, ready to turn around.
A few attempts at dialing. What if somebody else answers the phone?
Then “Phil” is on the phone. Anne says we’re at the intersection; where’s the office?
The light turns, I take the green arrow, drive across the tracks right in front of a Green Line streetcar with nobody in it, and pull over to the side of the road.
“He says it’s near the Dunkin Donuts.”
Oh sure. Likely story. Is there any intersection in Greater Boston that doesn’t have a Dunkin Donuts? I peer out the windshield and say, “We’re at the Dunkin Donuts.”
There’s a narrow lane behind the store. “Is it down the alley?”
Phone: What?
“At the back of the Dunkin Donuts.”
Phone: Where are you?
Anne: “We’re at the Dunkin Donuts.”
Phone says something.
Anne to me: “He says there’s a road just past the parking lot.”
I pull the car around to the other side of the store. We see a parking lot. We see another narrow road just beyond it. Apparently “Phil” has never been to the back end of the Dunkin Donuts. He really needs to get out more.
This narrow road has streetcar tracks implanted down the middle. More cars, and a few streetcars, are parked every which way. A few feet down the road we spy a small, nondescript building with a glass door and a light on inside and an incomprehensible poster in the window, and no sign suggesting the place has anything to do with the T.
“Oh, here it is,” she says. “You can just stay here, I’ll be right out.”
“You don’t want me to go with you?”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just be a second.”
I stay in the car. I watch her enter through the glass door, disappear from sight, and return half a minute later with the pocketbook.
So no scam. “Phil,” she reports, is just as vague as he sounds. The business of his office is inexplicable. Somebody turned in the pocketbook somewhere on the T system and it ended up here. Phil never goes anywhere beyond Dunkin Donuts.
Pocketbook in hand, everything turning out all right in the end, we head light-heartedly home and run smack into a hellacious traffic jam on the expressway.
I think I may be owed something.