HEYDAYS: A mystery package
Thirty years ago or thereabouts. That's when it happened, before my retirement, while still chained to a desk at this newspaper. Obviously, I josh. At no time on any newspaper did I ever feel shackled. Any moment, night or day, I enjoyed the priv...
Thirty years ago or thereabouts. That's when it happened, before my retirement, while still chained to a desk at this newspaper.
Obviously, I josh. At no time on any newspaper did I ever feel shackled. Any moment, night or day, I enjoyed the privilege of rising and stepping to the gents' to freshen up.
Seriously, friends, I love my profession. Not one day comes to mind when I awoke and dreaded tackling any assignment. I'm a journalist who would rather be called a newspaperman.
Thus, the scene having been set, there sat the newspaperman, also called a columnist, busy at his desk, when along came the mail clerk. After delivering a few items, plus several of his brainstorms for ingenious columns, he whistled merrily along.
Among the handful of letters deposited was a package. Ah, the package.
Though not normally suspicious, I became instantly leery of this hefty little box wrapped in plain brown paper. Postmark: Pennsylvania.
This was a faddish era for certain scoundrels to mail packages and letters that exploded in recipients' faces. Plus other skulduggery of that repugnant sort.
All day, the package sat on the farthest edge of my desk. A week later, there it still remained, unopened.
Sporadically fellow workers would drop in and inquire about it, wondering if I ever planned to open the thing. Wasn't I a tad curious? Some would even pick it up and shake it.
When I suggested that such action might not be a keen idea and why, they backed off, blanching.
Finally a friend in public relations came up with what he labeled a perfect solution to my conundrum. Yes, he used words of that brand.
He suggested I take the package to Lake Eola, where one could always find an itinerant idling on a bench or dozing under a tree. Then offer the drifter five bucks to open the bundle for me while I took a short stroll around the lake.
His scheme had all the earmarks of getting me off the hook, of course, But would I pull that kind of reprehensible bamboozle on a fellow human, even for a penniless chap who would probably be willing to chance just about anything for a fiver?
Don't have to answer that, do I?
Then on a whim, with aforementioned enigmatic package now on the car seat beside me, I stopped at Winter Park Police headquarters and carried my conundrum inside.
Next day, a bomb-squad member showed me the contents - a pet rock, souvenir of Slippery Rock, Pa., compliments of a grateful reader. Feeling quite relieved but foolish, I apologized to the officer. "Oh, no," he says. "You did absolutely right."
Appreciatively, my only other experience along this hairy line was receiving a zany, threatening letter from a reader, but immediately I turned that one over to the FBI.
Providentially, after 50 years at this, my stories have managed to sidestep life's squalid scenes. Mostly they've been written about - or for - nice folks such as you.
Retired Sentinel staffer Ed Hayes, 82, welcomes your views and suggestions. Write to him in care of the Orlando Sentinel, MP-72, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, FL 32802-2833.