Just like “there are times when the Phantom leaves the jungle and walks the streets of the town like an ordinary man”, you can sometimes spot me jogging a little around the neighborhood. Not very often, never far from home, but still, out there, with my lazy eye of the tiger.
Yesterday was one such day.
The actual run is nothing to write home about, but it turned out to be nothing like my usual runs because just as I turned to my home stretch, down the hill, past the gas station, and just as I was about to cross the street, I saw a car from the corner of my eye. I slowed down a little bit – still moving, thank you very much – but the car slowed down, too, which made me turn to look what was going on. That’s when I saw a hand giving me the thumbs-up.
I thought it might have been a neighbor so I kept on running, returned the thumbs up, and waited for the car to pass me, so I could cross the street, and run home like the summer wind. When it didn’t, I pulled out my earphones, and stopped.
“Nice!” yelled the driver, whom I now saw.
I must have looked baffled, because I was. The man yelled again.
“Nice! Nice shirt!”
I still didn’t understand, so I looked down and saw that I was still wearing the same red-and-white shirt I had put on when I left home, and I thought how I had bought that short way too long ago for me to be wearing in 2013, and while I was thinking about that, the driver yelled something again.
“Nice shirt! AJAX!” he yelled, still holding his thumb up.
“Yes, Ajax,” I said, and smiled and gave him the thumbs up.
“Listen, I’m Dutch and … maybe you can help me with something,” he said.
“Maybe,” I said, because I didn’t want to commit to anything. I’ve
The man accelerated, made a quick U-turn and stopped his car on the sidewalk on the other side of teh street. Finally, I crossed the street.
Having got fooled and had, and having been a victim of a scam or two in my past I told myself one thing as I crossed the street. And the thing was this: “Whatever you do, do not shake hands with him.”
He stopped the car, and now opened the window on the driver’s side. I stood two meters from the car, figuring that was a little more than an arm’s length.
“Ajax!” he said again. “Markus Rosenborg!”
“No, no,” I said, “Jari Litmanen!”
“Oh, you’re Finnish?”
“That’s right, mister.”
“Well, good. Anyway, see, I’m Dutch, and I’ve been here for a week on a trade fair, and this is a rental car, and my flight is in three hours but I still have these samples in my car, and I don’t want to take them with me, so … maybe you’re interested in buying some kitchen cutlery?”
I could see a few white boxes on the backseat.
“Um, well,” I said out loud, but in my head, I was telling myself not to shake his hand, because the last time I was standing next to a strange car like that, and was offered something, I was in Rome, and thinking that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” I shook the driver’s hand, and then was afraid I’d never get it back, like I never got the leather jacket he was supposed to have given me for free, as thanks for the directions to the Vatican.
“I don’t know, maybe you can go ask at the gas station?” I said, pointing towards the Shell down the road, trying to be helpful, in case he wasn’t just trying to con me.
“I’ve already been there, sold a box,” he said, with a big smile.
That made me happy, but then a voice in my head said, “that’s exactly what a con man would say!”
“There’s a couple of more gas stations between here and the airport, try there,” I said.
“Good idea. North from here? Not south?”
“No, north, just get on the highway, and head to the airport. You can’t miss them.”
“I’ll do that. You sure you don’t want anything? I’ll give you 80 percent off!”
“I’m sure,” I said, because I was.
“I don’t want to disturb your training, how long have you run?”
“Um, not long, maybe … seven kilometers,” I said, and I totally fooled him because I had only run five and a half kilometers.
He wasn’t impressed, so I added, “isn’t that about how long Litmanen would run in one game?”
“No, he’d run ten, I think,” said the Dutch salesman.
“You’re right. He would. They don’t call him The King for nothing.”
“I know. There’s a statue of him in Finland, right?”
“Ok, thanks for your help, buddy,” he said.
“No problem, it was my pleasure,” I said.
I don’t know if he wanted to shake my hand or not, but before he could stick his arm out the window, I raised my hand in a salute, and ran home.