My kids loved the movie, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” I don’t remember the plot except for a pair of pants with sentimental value traveling the globe. The movie script popped up after my morning at Manatee Beach, a beautiful public beach near my home in Southwest Florida.
It was beautiful as it almost always is. Building clouds in the Gulf, 10 or 20 degrees cooler than most other places in the U.S. My hometown of St. Louis breached a record-breaking 108 degrees. A nice breeze cooled my personal training client and me as we came back from a two-mile run/walk session that started and ended near th lifeguard stand.
We walked by huge piles of abandoned garbage left from the 4th of July beach celebrations the night before. We shook our heads.
We started early, but several clusters of early beach-goers were sunbathing. As we always do, my client and I spread our two towels out, with nothing on them, ready for us to do our recovery stretching when we returned. My client wants to try a 5K by this fall. We determined after discussing her history and goals, that a run/walk method would be best.
When we returned, we couldn’t find our towels. I’ve lived here since 2004. No one has ever stolen my towel.
I began having regrets about the towel I chose to bring. It was beat-up and beginning to wear thin. But in large bold type it said, “NBC 1980 Olympics, WCKT TV.” The Olympics logo was on it. I’ve brought it to the beach often, especially when my kids have come to visit. I’d held onto the towel from when I worked at the NBC-TV affiliate in Miami. I was a reporter during the year that NBC was to broadcast the Olympics. NBC gave trinkets to affiliates including towels and jackets. Only one problem. Because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. joined other countries boycotting the Olympics that year. As a result, the much-promoted NBC sponsorship of the Olympics didn’t happen. We had collector’s items on our hands.
Last year, I gave the jacket to my daughter who was competing in college track hoping she understood the value of the jacket. When my kids came to visit, I would use the towel as a teaching moment about politics, sports and anything else.
My client and I asked everyone on the beach if they’d seen the towels. I climbed the lifeguard station to check their lost and found. Nada. We asked the umbrella concession man if he’d seen the towels. Nope.
Next to the drink concession stand man. He goes, “What’d they look like.” I said, “Mine had the words NBC 1980 Olympics.” “Did it say WCKT-TV?” he asked. Bingo. “I know who has it. I’ll call him.” He calls the would-be towel thief and says, “Bring the towel back. It has sentimental value.” Then he says to me, “He needs gas money.”
“I’ll give him four towels,” I plead.
We scraped $7 together. Ten minutes later, the umbrella concession man asks, “Did you find your towels?”
“No,” I crabbed, “the towel thief is supposedly on his way back.”
“Oh…that guy. I saw him take the towels. There he is now.” He points to a guy with a towel on his shoulder. My client and I chase him as he makes his way to the drink concession.
Sure enough, the towel remover brings our towels out of the bag. I give him the $7 and apologize for not getting the promised four more towels. He says, “Don’t give me the towels. Give them to the homeless. That’s what I was going to do.” I began wondering how much my towel might get on e-Bay.
The towel remover then says, “This guy (the drink concession man) is a good guy. He doesn’t do drugs. I’m trying to be clean.” He shows us his scarred arms. My eyes welled up as I thanked him for bringing the towel back.
“I’ve always used this towel to model to my kids healthy athletics and my work as a reporter looking for truth.” He hugged me and handed me a flyer called, “The Christian’s Manner of Dress.” I began calculating how many towels I could give away when I got home. My client and I were grateful for the extra mile we effortlessly got in running around looking for our towels.