Did You Just Throw a Gun Off The Bridge?

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

Towards the later years of my teens, I was working at various locations in the Burlington Mall, usually until late at night. I had spent about a year and a half working at Johnny Rockets — where a good majority of the stories on this site or people in the stories on this site are from — where I met Tim.

I was around 17 or 18 at the time, and Tim was in his early 30s.  He was much older than I was, but we got along famously. He was a bit of an oddball, and I was a bit of a reject, so we fit well.

Many nights after work, we’d get together and either go across the street to a movie or go driving around playing a game that we liked to call “Where does this road go?” The game was quite simple, you’d just drive to the end of a road or an intersection and pick a direction. Whoever was in the passenger seat got to pick left straight or right. We ended up in some insane places playing this game.

Given that we both worked nights, it didn’t matter how late we stayed out or what time we got in. When you didn’t have to be at work until late afternoon, you didn’t care much.

One night, while out playing “Where does this road go?” we ended up on the strip in Hampton Beach. It was summer, but late enough at night that there weren’t many people at the beach.

We made a few laps around the strip, looking for anyone or anything interesting — as we did — before deciding to head back to the mall, where we’d left my car hours earlier.

If you’ve not been up to Hampton, you know that just over a long stretch of bridge is Salisbury Beach.  The lesser of the two beaches, if you will.

It was around 2:30 that morning when we started crossing the bridge that connected the two, when Tim decided that he wanted to toss pennies off the bridge, for good luck.

We pulled over, go out of his truck and walked to the guard rail.

It was a long way down, though I don’t know the exact height of the bridge.

I threw my penny over, watching it spiral and twist and seemingly float its way down to plop in the cold dark water below.

Tim followed suit and we were on our way back to the truck when flashing lights quickly approached from each side of the bridge, quickly surrounding us.

“Put your hands where we can see them,” a voice came over a loud speaker as the Ford Explorer from Salisbury Police pulled up.

Tim and I looked at each other confused and raised our hands above our head.

An officer came from the front and one from the back, quickly separating us from one another. Tim was taken in front of the truck and I was taken to the back of the truck, each to be questioned separately.

“What are you doing?” the officer asked me.
“We stopped to toss pennies off the bridge.”
“At two-thirty in the morning?” he asked, aggravated.
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“Are you sure that’s all you’re doing?” he shined the maglight in my eyes.
“Yes, that’s all we did. Why? What are you accusing us of?”

He looked me up and down, visually accusing me of whatever it was that he thought we were guilty of.

“Many people throw weapons off the bridge after they commit a crime.”
“Are you serious?” I asked almost louder than I should have.
“Dead serious, son.”

He went on to ask me dozens of more questions about where we were, what we were doing in Hampton, and why we’d stopped on the bridge.

After checking my ID, he left me go back to the truck.  I sat in the passenger seat and waited for Tim to join me.

He got in, not saying anything and started the truck.

As we drove away, both police vehicles followed us through Salisbury and into the neighboring town. We drove slowly, making sure to not give them any reasons to pull us over again.  Using our signals the entire way, making sure to obey the speed limit. There was no way we were going to get in trouble.

We shared stories when we got back on the highway about how we’d been grilled by the officers. Tim’s questioning officer was evidently a little more aggressive than mine was, but both ultimately saw that we were just a couple of guys out driving around. So what if it was late at night and we were acting suspicious.

Those late night driving games took us all over New England — from Cape Code, to Maine, to all over New Hampshire and Vermont. We had some great times just driving around, peeling out over speed bumps, and trying to convince the police that we really weren’t bad people.

She Wanted a Side of Me

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

The setting for this story was a tiny little restaurant on Main Street in Tewksbury.  It was called Sauces and was a new concept idea from the owners of a fairly successful restaurant a few towns over.  The idea was that there was an array of sauces available, and you could pick three that would complement your entree, for dipping. Seemed clever, right?  It wasn’t. The restaurant didn’t do well at all.

As a waiter, I’d go most nights without more than half dozen tables.  Sometimes making less than $20 throughout a whole shift.

A few times a month, I’d work up in the secluded bar area with our awesome bartender, Jen.  She was teaching me how to make drinks. Not because I wanted to be a bartender, but just because it was never that busy, and we both wanted to occupy some time.

The bar was completely closed off with glass and two separate stairways, one for the customers and one for the staff.  Smoking indoors was still legal at this point, so we would seat smokers up in the bar at one of the five or six tables that were up there.

One night while working up at the bar, I was tending to a table of two women. Friends, likely in their late thirties, maybe early forties.  If you know me at all, you know I’m somewhat of a bullshitter, a real salesman, so to speak. So when I waited tables for all those years in my teens and early twenties, I really laid it on.  When you make your money by bringing people food, the nicer you are, the more money you make.

For some reason, with these two women, I laid it on thicker than usual; laughing hysterically at their jokes, listening to their stories, really pretending to care about what they were saying.  Ultimately all I really cared about was how much of a tip they were going to leave me.

She never actually gave me her name, but I later found out that it was Rose.  When Rose told me the story about how the two of them had just come back from a cruise, I told her the story of how I’d gone on a cruise with my family when I was 15.  We laughed and told some details about the stories from the cruise ships.

I excused myself to make a couple of drinks for one of the waitresses, and eventually brought back their bill.

They paid cash, left a decent tip, and a note. Written on one of the napkins was an AOL email address, and “Email me. You’re cute.”

This sort of thing never happened to me. Like, literally, never before this.  And, come to think of it, never again.

I scooped it up, put it in my pocket, and figured what the hell.  At the very least, I’d thank her, tell her I was flattered, and decline any offer for a date or whatever weird thing would be coming my way if I emailed her.

I told Jen what had happened.  She laughed this amazing laugh that she had, wrapped me in one of her giant bear hugs (she’d always say “you go top, I’ll take the shoulder in the face”), and told me not to bother.

These days, the AOL email address would be a tip off of something bad impending, since no one uses AOL anymore.  But back then, it wasn’t a bad sign. In fact, I had an AOL email address at the time, too. I didn’t judge.

I waited until the next day to email her.  I wish I still had the exact contents of the email.  But it was something like the following:

Hey there,

This is Mike, the waiter from last night.  Thanks so much for the great tip you left. That was really sweet.

I’m really flattered that you left your email for me. 🙂

-Mike

I fired it off and went about my day.  Which, knowing myself, was probably hanging out online or watching TV.

She emailed me back a few hours later.  Again, this is just a summary of a memory all of these years later:

Mike

You’re so adorable. I could just eat you up.

Let’s go have dinner together.

This is where I should have just politely declined.  I should have said “No, thank you. I’ve got a girlfriend” or something equally as non-insulting.  My early-twenties mind didn’t think that way, though. So what I ended up responding with was something to the effect of:

Hey,

That’s a sweet offer, thank you.

But aren’t I a bit too young for you?

“Too young for you”, also known as — in the mind of an older woman — YOU ARE SO FUCKING OLD.  In hindsight, I realize that I was more or less calling her old, but I definitely remember phrasing it as “I’m too young for you” and not “you’re too old for me”.  Though, I suppose, it’s basically saying the same thing, so what’s the difference?

She never wrote me back, it just sort of went away.

Three days later, while back at Sauces mostly standing around doing nothing, the boss, Bob, called me into the office.

“Michael,” (he always called me Michael, not Mike. I still don’t know why) he said. “This is Detective Robertson, from Tewksbury PD.”
“Hello,” I said, shaking his hand.
“Thanks Bob, could you give us a few minutes?”

That wasn’t a problem for Bob. Right up to the bar to light another cigarette he went.  I don’t remember ever working at a restaurant where the manager smoked so much all day every day.

“Michael,” he said, handing me his card. “We’ve gotten some reports of harassing emails from Rose”
“Who’s Rose?” I asked immediately.

He told me her last name, as if that was supposed to spark some sort of immediate recognition.

“I don’t know her.”
“She called us the other day, saying that you were harassing her via email.”
“Harassing how?”

He showed me a piece of paper with her email address written on it.  I immediately recognized it as the woman from the other night.

“Oh, her name’s Rose? She never told me.”
“So you know this email?”
“Yeah.  She was in here the other night hitting on me.  She left it on a napkin when she left.”
“And why would you be harassing her?”
“She said I was harassing her?  I only emailed her twice.”
“She did,” he said. “We haven’t gotten the emails yet. But can you tell me what happened?”

I walked him through the story from start to end.  When I told him what I’d said about the age difference, he laughed outloud.

“Son,” he said. “You never say that to a woman.  Ever.”
“I didn’t know.  I was just trying to let her down gently.”

He asked me to write down a quick summary of what had happened and sign it, so he could take it back to the station with him.

After he thanked me, we left Bob’s office and he gave a wave to Bob as if to say thanks.

By this point, Bob had the entire wait staff — which were all women, except for me — and some of the cooks up at the bar, likely gossiping about what was happening. By the time I walked up the stairs and opened the door, they were all staring at me.

“Holy shit.” I said as I entered. “That chick from the other night called the cops.”
“Shut. Up.” Jen said from behind the bar.
“Wait, tell the rest of us what’s going on,” Bob spoke up.

I filled them in on the story, most of them staring at me like I was reciting the recipe for curing cancer.  It was such a stupid story, but one that they all wanted to hear anyway.

That was seemingly the end of the story, having heard it all that night.

Until a week later, that is.

Detective Robertson made his way back to Sauces and asked to speak with me again.

When we sat down in Bob’s office, Detective Robertson plopped down a thick manilla folder in front of me.  It had to be four inches thick and it landed with a great, deafening thud.

“What’s that?” I asked.
“That, Michael, is Rose’s history.  Once I sat down and really dug into her, I quickly found that this isn’t the first time she’s done this sort of thing.”
“Shut up. Seriously?!”
“Seriously.  Usually it gets a lot farther than it got with you.  Sometimes she makes the guy her boy toy for a while, and then files a complaint for some reason or another when the relationship doesn’t work out.”
“This is the best thing that’s happened to me all day,” I said with a bit too much excitement.
“I figured you want to know, so I stopped by on my way home.”
“Wait, so I’m not in trouble.”
“No, you aren’t. You really never were.”
“Is she?”
“She hasn’t specifically broken any laws yet.  All she’s done so far is waste a whole lot of police time.”
“But she’s likely to break a law at some point, don’t you think?”
“Probably. And when she does, we’ll get her for it.”

I wish, looking back, he’d have let me read some of the other stories in that folder.  I imagine I could have written a whole book about Rose.

I told the rest of the Sauces crew what had happened.  And, like you reading this, they probably didn’t believe it. But I swear, every word of it’s true.

And through this story I learned that you never, ever, ever judge a woman’s age just by looking at her. And you most definitely never call her old.

Bustin’ Criminals Near and Far

Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.

It was the summer of 2003.  July or August, I believe.  I was working at the Rockingham Mall, in Salem New Hampshire, at the Cambridge Soundworks store.  This was back before they went electronic only and had retail store locations.

The job was incredibly boring.  I barely made any money working there, and most of the days we just hung out with employees of the stores around ours, watching baseball on one of the big screen TVs in the store.  That was the summer that a co-worker, Josh, introduced me to “Family Guy”.  This was the summer after Fox had canceled it. Josh had picked up the DVDs and we blew through them over the handful of months that I worked there.

One Sunday night, shortly before closing, a trio of guys around my age came in.  This was 2003, so I was almost 24 at this point.  Okay, so maybe they were a little bit younger than I was.  It’s tough to tell all these years later.

Anyhow, they came into the store and wanted to buy a bunch of expensive speakers.  Given that Cambridge Soundworks was a fairly high end boutique, we had a few speakers that were in the multiple thousands of dollars each.  Along with a subwoofer around the same price.

They didn’t want that high end stuff, though.  They wanted a pair of $600 speakers, and a matching subwoofer, as well as a 6.1 receiver — which was the best we had at a time.

The other guy I was working with — Brian, maybe? — helped them out and began ringing them up.  The entire time they were in the store, which was maybe 10 or 15 minutes, they seemed very nervous.  They kept looking out the front of the store — which was all glass — looking anxious.

The leader of the group handed over a Discover card, which Brian swiped through the machine.  It didn’t process properly the first time, so he tried it again.

It failed a second time, so he put it down on the counter and said he’d try again after he entered all of their details into the computer.

“Whatchu need my name for?” he asked, irritatedly.
“For your warranty. The speakers have a lifetime warranty.” Brian responded.
“Nah, I ain’t need dat.” (I know this sounds incredibly racist, but this is what he said and how he said it.)

Meanwhile I was standing back and noticed something weird about the card that he had presented to Brian.  Something didn’t look right about it.  When it came time for Brian to run the card again, I offered to try, citing “better luck” with the credit card machine.

As soon as I picked it up, I knew it was fake.  The weight was off, the numbers weren’t raised, and the printing on the front and back was pixelated.  It was definitely a fake card.

I don’t remember how I explained it, but I managed to duck down below the counter with the card in hand.  Brian must have been distracting the would-be crooks.

I pulled my Discover card out of my wallet and called the number on the back.  I pressed zero as many times as I could to get a person on the phone as quickly as possible.

“I believe I have customers in my store that are trying to use a stolen credit card.  They are unaware I’m on the phone with you.” I said as soon as someone picked up.
“Can you give me the card number they’re trying to use?” the Agent asked.

I read the digits off and he then asked “Is the customer a white gentleman in his late 60s?”
“He most definitely is not,” I said.

The Agent then conferenced in the Salem police and explained the situation.

“Sorry,” I poked my head up from below the counter. “I’m still trying to get your card to go through, sir.”

At this point all three of them got really nervous.

“Take down a description and the card number,” the dispatcher from 911 told me. “But let them leave the store with the merchandise. Officers are on the way.”

I stood up, smiled and said “Okay, you’re all set.  I think our card reader is just getting old.  Brian, just have them sign the slip and help them load up.”
“There a backdoor?” one of the secondary thugs asked.
“No, but we’ll help you load up.  Just pull up to the doorway.” Brian said.
“Nah, you got a cart? We’ll take it. Bring it back.” the head thug interjected.

I nodded to Brian to just let them do whatever they wanted to do.

A few minutes later they came back with our dolly, thanking us and making a right out of the store heading back into the belly of the mall.  The entrance by our store was just off to the left, so they’d have parked right outside.

Not even a minute later, four Salem Police Officers came into the store and asked for the description of the criminals and which direction they went.

Literally — not even kidding — as I was telling them what they looked like, they three walked back by towards their car.  Arms full of merchandise from one of the other stores.

“Thanks,” one of the Officers said, running out of the store behind the trio.  “Stop! Police!” he yelled.

The other Officers followed quickly.

Once things had calmed down a bit, I called our store manager, Rick, to let him know what had happened.

“Will we get our merchandise back?” was his only question.

Moments later Brian and I saw the criminals run back through the mall, passing our store and heading to the right.  The Officers followed shortly behind them.  To say that the 7 of them were hauling ass would be an understatement.

It took about ten minutes after we saw them go running by, but the Officers were victorious and walked all three thugs past to the left in handcuffs.

One of them nodded to us through the window.

Only one of them came back to the store shortly thereafter.  He asked if one of us could come down to the police station after the store closed to make a positive identification on the criminals as well as our merchandise.  As you know, I’m sort of a geek, so I volunteered.

It wasn’t as cool as I’d hoped it would be.  The woman at the front desk was expecting me and buzzed me through to the waiting area where the Officer who had come into our store came to greet me.

“Thanks for coming down,” he said.
“Glad to help.  I knew something wasn’t right.”

He walked me down a long hallway to a room with one of those two way mirrors.  Another Officer walked in groups of lookalike thugs, and asked me to pick out the one that looked familiar.

I had no trouble picking out the three guys I’d seen just an hour ago.

Once I identified them all, he walked me down to a room where they were keeping all of the items they’d recovered from the trio’s car.  In addition to the items from Cambridge Soundworks, there were dozens of other items, maybe even hundreds; purses, DVDs, stereos, clothes, food, wallets, belts.  You name it, these guys bought it.

I picked out the items that were from my store and marveled at the piles and piles of other stuff in the room.

“I’d guess about thirty grand worth of stuff,” the Officer said.
“And this is all from tonight?”
“Yeah.  One of them cracked almost immediately once we separated them.  They did this every Sunday for the past few months and then sold the merchandise on eBay.”
“Seems like a lot of work. Why not just get a job?” I laughed.

The Officer shrugged and made a move towards the door.

He thanked me for my time and let me know that once the merchandise was no longer “evidence” that we would get it back.  If that happened, it happened after I no longer worked there, so I don’t know if it ever happened.

I never followed up on the case and don’t know what came of those kids, but I imagine it wasn’t a hug and free popcorn.