John Chant bought me coffee. It was at 14th and Main where there are two coffee shops. Starbucks on one corner, JJ Bean on the other. JJ Bean used to be a bank. It was only a year ago that people deposited money there. Then it became a coffee shop. Coffee is where the money is.
I once did a story on the coffee shops between 12th and 28th on Main. I ran out of fingers, and toes, and ears. We all should have invested in coffee.
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So John Chant bought me coffee and said, since he had done that it was my job to find the story. John has spent 35 years helping me find stories. He found the single one best story of my life. It was about litter bugs. You may know it.
We were driving on Main Street when he said, “that ticks me off.” He does not use profanity. He is a hard nosed street level cameraman but his speech is clean.
“What? The price of coffee?”
“No,” he said. “That does.” He pointed to some paper flying out of the window of a luxury car parked in front of the train station at Main and Terminal.
We looked at each other. “You think we could?” we both asked.
As we watched more paper come out, we both nodded.
He wheeled his van across Main Street, through traffic like it was his finger weaving through his other fingers. He is a conservative family man, strongly connected with his wife and his church, but what he really wanted to be in life was a race car driver. His dream is to be on a German Autoban without a speed limit. He moves his camera van through the city like he is on roller blades.
He parked near the offending car load of inconsiderate idiots and started recording the events through the windshield. Let me tell you, if we had more John Chants working on police surveillance we would have less crime.
He filmed the next load of hamburger wrappings sailing out of the window. And then he shot another flying gift to the city of used napkins.
We stepped outside and confronted the litter low-life. There were two guys and two women in the car, all very well dressed.
We asked why they were throwing their garbage out.
“Excuse me,” he said with a heavy accent of indignation. “What gives you the right to speak to us?”
I was looking at his gold watch, which was on the same hand as another gift of ketchup smeared litter.
I ignored the question. I couldn’t answer it anyway, so I just said “Why you throwing this garbage out?”
He turned his back on us.
“Ok, we’ll try again,” I said. But he put his car, which was running the whole time, into reverse and stomped on the gas.
I grabbed his garbage from the ground and tried to throw it back into his window, but his foot was faster than my arm.
But because of John some litter throwers are now on the run.
But yesterday we were looking for Christmas. And not just any Christmas. It had to be a different Christmas story or why would you watch?
And we had been going for four hours. Yes, four hours. Even my granddaughter would get sick of me after that. But where do a different Christmas story? I had been in and out of the van countless times asking a guy in a back hoe if he had any decorations in his cab, or if they had a Christmas tree in the impound lot of Busters. But no tree grows in Busters.
Meanwhile John is lifting weights while he waits for me. He has an eight pound rubber coated steel dumb-bell he uses to keep healthy since they cut open his chest to fix his heart. Cameramen are very entertaining.
And then we went to Trout Lake, to use the bathroom because of the coffee he had bought. Before we got to the bathroom we passed a couple raking leaves. “Nice couple,” John said.
That’s good enough for me.
The man is 91and his wife 83 and they are nearly newly weds. He proposed on Christmas Day, 16 years ago. Thank you story god. And thanks, John for the coffee. Otherwise we would not have gone to use that bathroom and would have never found them.
Stories are like life with endless turns and surprises, and if you keep going and drink enough coffee you’ll often find a prize at the end.