“We are literally driving off into the sunset to rescue your GR1.”
I said this looking over at Michael Easter, hunched over his phone, trying to get his Find My ____ (insert any lost Apple product) to update. We were heading west on I-10 in the GORUCK Jeep that has no top and a spare tire cover that tells everyone behind it to “Embrace the Suck”.
We had left the inaugural Sandlot JAX fitness festival earlier than planned, right before the Silence & Light concert was about to begin. Michael couldn’t find his GR1. He had left it in the green room while emceeing the Fit Talks in the WJCT station but when he went to get it, his rucksack was gone.
At the risk of sounding overly maternal, I quizzed him on when he had last seen his rucksack, what it looked like, and what was inside it to determine the level of problem solving that needed to be engaged. The results were not good: he had been in and out of the green room where his bag was all day, it was black with a red, white, and blue paracord handle, and inside it was his computer with his life’s work including the latest draft of his new book, Scarcity Brain.
I mumbled something about having to act now before the window of finding lost items closed. We retraced steps, asked if anyone had seen a black GR1, and, more discreetly, wondered who could have possibly taken it. A couple of people suggested it could be a case of a misidentified ruck - they do all look the same. Even when you intentionally put a red, white, and blue paracord wrap on it to prevent exactly that.
While chatting with an on-duty police officer on how to report the missing rucksack, Michael realized he could use his phone to locate his other Apple devices. It showed his computer about a 30 minute drive from where we stood in the middle of Metropolitan Park. Michael and I exchanged an unspoken look and I knew we could not sit around waiting to be transferred from one police department to another.
“Let’s go,” I told him. “We’ll track it down ourselves or at least get close enough to get the police from the right department involved. Michael was game. Hope, while essential, is not a strategy.
We got stalled by foot and vehicular traffic headed to the Elton John concert, so I called up my high school buddy who is a K9 police officer. He picked up on the first ring - friends like that are salt of the earth. He cursed our predicament, jaded from having seen too much in his law enforcement career, though underneath he still was the goofy guy from 9th grade French class. He called his buddy who was patrolling the area of Jacksonville from where Michael’s computer was beaconing and put us in touch. Now on the highway, I had to shout into the phone to be heard over the wind that was whipping my hair around while driving one-handed at top speed and trying to connect my phone charger and navigation app. I signed off and relayed the plan to Michael. Our spirits were uplifted by the possibility of recovering the rucksack and its contents, so we turned on some music to bridge the gap between dreams and reality.
“It’s moved to a Circle K now,” Michael reported. Our faith in humanity plummeted. This was not a promising sign. We called the police officer who was expecting us and decided to meet at the Circle K. I wondered what sort of scene we were driving up on, my mind going to the worst case of an armed confrontation. We continued in relative silence, the last light of day fading behind the trees.
The Circle K had no other vehicles present when we arrived. Michael checked his computer’s location again and it updated back to a residential address less than a five minute drive from the gas station. We decided it would be wise to wait for the police before rolling up on someone’s property. To kill time, Michael and I went into the convenience store and browsed the snack options. We discussed our go-to road trip fare - Michael is really into diet soda and corn nuts which he described as “great for being delicious, breaking teeth, and causing diabetes.” I told him my dad loved to get a real Coca Cola and put salted peanuts in it. That’s when Michael noticed the boiled peanuts station and said he had never tried a boiled peanut. I got the jumbo cup and filled it to the brim with the cajun seasoned variety, ready to blow his mind with this Southern delicacy.
We sat for a few minutes on the curb of that Circle K, not far from the Florida-Georgia line. Night had fallen and in the glow of the gas station lighting, Michael and I waxed nostalgic on the last time either of us had done this very thing during the summers and weekends of our youth. We laughed at the irony of now looking forward to the police showing up. It felt as if we had crossed one of those thresholds when you realize you are, in fact, much older than you once were.
My buddy’s buddy arrived in his patrol car and another cop in an unmarked truck pulled in shortly after. We exchanged quick handshakes and briefed them on the latest in what we were certain had become “The Case of the Stolen Ruck.” Michael shared the address that his Find My was indicating and the police told us to meet them there.
“Here we go,” I thought. Would it be a meth house? A den of thieves? A deadend? We turned onto a quiet residential street and parked in front of what appeared to be a nice, single family home. Michael and I waited near the Jeep as the cops knocked on the door. We heard voices and then I saw a face I recognized. It was Earl Granville, a veteran who had been a speaker at Sandlot Jax earlier that day. Then, another friendly face emerged, this one belonging to Jonathan Lopez who I had personally invited to Sandlot Jax. As we pieced together the clues of this mystery, out of the house walked a tween boy in glasses wearing a shirt with the words “VIRGINITY ROCKS” plastered on the front. He was Jonathan’s son and had accidentally lifted Michael’s ruck thinking it belonged to his father. An honest mistake as both of the bags were black GR1s with the same patriotic paracord wrap on the handle.
That’s when the absurdity of the situation came fully into view. All of the adults cracked up, relieved to discover that our faith in humanity had been restored by a ten year old virgin who insisted he was “just trying to help.” Michael got his GR1 back with his prized words on the hard drive he thankfully had not yet self-destructed. We took a couple of pictures to remember the moment, slapped the backs of friends both new and old, and jokingly admonished the accidental thief to stay out of trouble as we drove away.
It was the perfect ending to a memorable night. Michael found what he was looking for and that the more boiled peanuts you have, the better they get.