It is a Pacific Northwest rite of passage for the aerobic athletic types. You hop in a van with 5 other sweaty people, and you basically live with these people from the friendly confines of a minivan. You get a break when you are out running your assigned legs. It is a nice little respite. The race also requires your team record the times of the runners as they finish their assigned legs. That is why you see a statistically above average number of barely dressed people roaming the Oregon hillsides, in late August, branding a clipboard.
Somehow Miguel, through some random work wellness letter, recruited a woman from his work who lived in California to fill a slot on a team he usually shared a smelly van in late August. Jennifer from the bay area of California picked her road trips capriciously. She liked a challenge and beside she used to live in Portland. Well she lived in Portland mainly for tax purposes. Miguel learned this as he picked her up at the airport. She told the story as they waited for her cooler that she checked with the airlines.
Miguel asked her why she bought an empty cooler on her flight from the Bay Area. Please note this happened eight months before all chaos broke out after 9/11. “Those were different times.”
“The cooler isn’t empty. Could you grab the other end of the cooler?. Someday, they will invent a cooler that is easy to carry”. With each holding a separate handle they marched through the corridor and into the short term parking area. They unceremoniously dumped the cooler into the back compartment of the minivan.
When they got back to Miquel’s house Jen organized her belongings for the weekend relay race. Miquel learned that she was single which is always a curious spot of contention for a relay event. He was happy to learn she wasn’t looking for a guy because she was more into dating woman. This may seem like unimportant information, however he felt a certain responsibility toward her as it was mainly his friends and he had recruited her for the team. He wanted it to be a pleasant stress free experience. He rarely mixed work and pleasure however this nudged a certain threshold.
They made a checklist of the items needed for the weekend because the last thing you need to do is be without running shorts or a favorite pair of socks. The both deemed peanut filled pretzels as an item of survival. They had a little time to kill and decided to make a last minute stop at Trader Joes. For grins and giggles, or force of habit, they started to jog slowly to the store. Jennifer even started her running watch as she was vigilant in tracking her milage. She somehow knew this wasn’t really a good thing. She just loved to run.
The neighborhood where Miquel lived was a progressive niche in a progressive city. He was rather surprised when he was approached by two finely dressed men about some scripture passage in the bible. Miquel for the most part was a patient person who took things in stride. He politely listened to the diatribe about scripture and told the two young men he was not exactly their target audience. He even hinted that this neighborhood was not the place to find religious converts. It was surprisingly warm mid-day and they both had started to sweat. It was an ample excuse to be on to their next stop.
The jogged slowly and Jennifer expressed how she was not comfortable with somebody pushing religion on her. Miquel told her this was a rare occasion in this neighborhood. They started jogging back home when Miquel suggested they make one more stop. They needed to pick up a clip board. An animated Miquel explained the nuances of the clipboard when it comes to a relay race. Jen, starting to get into the spirit of the day, stated. “We shall find our clipboard.”
They jogged over to Rite-Aid thinking this would be an easy transaction. Out in front of Rite-Aid was another young woman selling the merits of religion. Miquel wondered what convention had pulled into town. Most specifically she was selling Christianity. Miguel noticed Jen was becoming a tad uncomfortable with the Christian onslaught. He noticed a less carefree tone to her conversation. She had a certain edge to her. Irritation leaked out of her smile.
The woman was holding a clipboard that had little three by five pieces of paper with pieces of scripture printed on them. She did not even ask Jennifer if she could have a bit of her time. This young lady started reciting scripture that she obviously had memorized. She was not reading from the papers. She read them as one would read a poem. Jen kept quiet and impatiently let the disciple finish her reading.
“You will find what you are looking for in scripture.” She handed Miguel and Jen a three by five piece of paper that contained scripture.
“Lady you are nice enough but we are need of a clipboard. That is all.”
Then things started happening fast. Jennifer looked to the sky for a second, glanced back at Miguel who was doing his best to disguise a laugh.
Without saying a word, she removed all the scripture from the clipboard. She then handed the scripture back to the woman and simply walked off with the clipboard.
They shared a raucous laugh as they walked past the Billiard Hall on the next block. The laugh made them both feel a little guilty. Jennifer instinctively, switched her running watch off, somewhat signally the adventure was over.
Miquel asked her why she switched off her running watch. It suddenly occurred to her that she accidently recorded the heist. Well somebody could track her steps and implicate her as a clipboard stealer. She knew in her mind she was always going to give the clipboard back. Taking the clipboard seemed like the perfect thing to do at the time. But stealing something was not in her DNA and the guilt would follow her forever.
Her and Miquel laughed some more and without another word marched back to the lady in front of Rite-Aid only to find she was no longer in front of the store. They both were a little worried about the ramifications of their impromptu shenanigans. They weren’t worried she would call the police. They were worried they had spoiled her day and she had given up on a mission that was important in her mind.
“Damn what do we do now? We have to leave in thirty minutes to meet the team.”
The silence hung in the musty air.
A minute later the lady emerged from Rite-Aid sporting the same energetic smile. She also had another clipboard she had purchased in the store. She also had a big pack of black licorice. She handed a piece of scripture to a random passerby.
“Mam we are genuinely sorry we took your clipboard, here is your clipboard back.”
“What do i need with two clipboards. I have plenty. This is my gift to you”
The silence once again hung in the musty air.