Following on from the last tale of ruthless theft, there was once a situation that was so blatant that it left me absolutely gobsmacked. The blazon affront of some fellow citizens can literally leave you speechless. And I was when, one day, a young foreign subject approached the shop counter. Like in the last tale, I had met the man before – I believe that he worked in a local chain restaurant. He had always seemed to be pleasant enough, and this day greeted me with a smile. (Imagine his accent as being similar to Manuel from Fawlty Towers doing an impression of Borat . . .)
Me: Hi. All right? How can I help you?
Manuel: Hev you got Get Rich or Die Tryin’ deevd weth rapper Feefty Cent?
Me: I think so, yeah. I’ll just have a look . . .
We keep the second-hand (or preowned) DVDs in numbered envelopes, as we don’t replace them once sold. In theory it simplifies the filing system. So Manuel and I went to browse through the preowned DVD shelves to look for the ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin” deevd. I know that I had seen it recently. I was certain that it was there somewhere. However, I couldn’t find the case on sale. So I went to look through the DVDs waiting to be put on sale – not there either.
Me: Sorry, I know that I’ve seen it recently. I was certain that it was here somewhere.
Manuel: Thees ees no problem, my friend. Thenk you.
Me: No problem. We can order a copy for you, if you like? We’ll have it for tomorrow. It’ll probably be about eight ninety-nine.
Manuel: No. Thenk you. Good bye.
Me: Thenk . . . uh, thank you. Just let us know if you’d like a copy.
Then the phone rang, so I went to answer it – it was probably Mrs Carblurt. I did puzzle over the missing Feefty Cent deevd a couple more times that afternoon though. I was sure that I’d seen it recently. No wonder 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy, what, with preowned copies of his mediocre film going missing in such a perplexing manner. I can’t be sure, but I most likely slept fitfully that night.
I wonder how Feefty would have felt, had he known. Poor gangsta. He’ll probably have to go back to pimping now.
The next day . . .
After a few friendly (read: testing) telephone calls from the indefatigable Mrs Carblurt, our friendly foreign fellow appeared once more. He browsed the preowned DVDs for a while, and then came up to the counter.
Me: Hi. How are you?
Manuel: Veery gud, thenk you. Eh, I wender, hev you got Get Rich or Die Tryin’ deevd weth rapper Feefty Cent?
Me (a little puzzled): Um, no. You remember, you asked me that yesterday? If you’d like me to order one for you, I’d be really happy to.
There was another customer in the shop, an ally who runs a furniture business up the road. He gave me the look: Here’s another live one! I smiled back at him. What would the working world be on a normal day, with just normal people, with normal enquiries? We enjoy these others. To an extent.
Manuel (smiling broadly): Ner, you hev et ere.
Me: Er, ner, I checked yesterday and we don’t have it here.
Manuel: Yers, you hev et.
I make eye contact with the ally once more. He’s actually laughing now. I’m smiling, but more out of puzzlement than humour. Our friend is still smiling too. In fact, we’re all having a great waste of time.
Me: We haven’t got a copy of 50 Cent’s mediocre film Get Rich or Die Failin’ in stock. I promise you. I thought we had, but we haven’t. We checked!
Manuel (laughing with the ally. And perhaps at my head-cocking): You hev!
Me: We haven’t! I mean, I’ll check again if you like? But I don’t think we’ll find it.
Manuel: You hev! You hev et out dere, in the back shop!
Me (looking over my shoulder at the extensive filing racks): There? No, we don’t! I’m telling you, I checked!
Manuel: You hev! I hev the case end you hev the disc!
All air suddenly leaves the room. What was funny / puzzling has now changed to bewilderment. I think that I understand our friend correctly. My ally has also adopted my expression of mild exasperation. Well, this was one that I’d never encountered before. And how Manuel laughs . . .
Me (frowning; probably looking as dangerous as Feefty when he’s a asleep, face-down): What do you mean, you have case?
Manuel (with another laugh; his hands pleading for me to understand his unfortunate plight. Exasperation transfers to him): I teke it becese you wes busy en I dedn’ went to wait!
Me: But . . . ? What? You just thought that it was all right to take the case because I was busy with someone else?
Manuel (rolling his eyes): Yers!
Me: So you just took it?
I can’t help but smile. My ally is smiling too. This fellow is a super-friendly (if not impatient) thief! Revisiting the scene of his crime to collect what was left behind! If I were a contributor to a reality TV programme, going through my head would be, What the actual flippin’ heck?
Me: But we don’t keep the discs in the cases. You stole an empty case. You stole an empty case!
Manuel: Yers, I know! End I want the disc!
We’re all laughing again. At least two-thirds of us from incredulity. In fact, I suspect we three were all laughing from incredulity.
Me: Look, we keep the disc in those envelopes. See? (I point out the filing racks to the friendly thief) There are about two thousand of them. That means that I would have to look in each individual envelope to find the disc that you stole.
Manuel: Thenk you.
Me: I’m not saying that I’ll do it! It would be much easier if you could bring back the case. It will have the corresponding number on the front. Then I’ll sell you disc.
Manuel: You look now?
Me: No! Bring back the case.
Manuel (laughing again; definitely incredulous): You look now!
Me: No! Bring back the case!
Manuel: You don’t hev the disc?
I never did see the friendly foreign thief again. I did eventually find the disc, about six months later. I think that I threw it in the bin. I must admit, I am curious as to whether he kept the empty case. 50 Cent – or Curtis Jackson to his auntie – reportedly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which actually means that he was “reorganising his financial affairs”, not broke at all. I think that he’ll be okay, but let’s pray for him anyway. I have never actually watched Get Rich or Die Tryin’. But IMDB gives it 5/10. And we all know that 5/10 = mediocre. The sort of film that you can’t even steal.
(Disclaimer: the thief’s being foreign has no bearing on the nature of this tale. He was foreign and he did steal. British pikies are just as bad. But in any language a thief is a thief, or a tea leaf, or a voleur, or a ladrón, or a ladrao, or a zlodzieg (as I expect he may have been), or even a 泥棒.)