Monday, April 4, 2011

a visit from Charlie Chan

A number of years ago I was working out of the Port of Philadelphia and we were tied up to the company pier undergoing repairs for about a week. While I was there a sledge hammer turned up missing. The mechanic that had been using it simply snagged another one and finished the job he was doing and mentioned it to the person running the tool room who mentioned it to a port captain who went beserk and came aboard and went through our entire vessel looking for it.

I swear, he was a dead ringer for Captain Queeg the way he carried on about a missing sledge hammer.

It was a pretty good bet as to where it went. Some tugboat deckhand had probaby lost one over the side and when the mechanic was eating lunch or somewhere, the deckhand saw a golden opportunity to replace his loss and simply glommed it.

Of course, to make sure the wood and metal of the tool was properly protected, he probably gave it a couple of coats of paint. I'd have to say that it wasn't a theft, but a misappropriation. There is a difference.

Anyway, I managed to placate the port captain, whom nobody liked, by promising him that I would do my best to get to the bottom of this dastardlay deed.

I got out a tablet and a pen because this was long before we had onboard computers and sat down at the galley table and composed a letter to the Honolulu Police Department explaining the case of the missing sledge hammer and asking them if they could help me locate the world famous Chinese detective, Charlie Chan so he could come out here and solve this little mystery.

I made a copy of this letter before I stuffed it into an envelope and sent it off.

Now, I figured that the odds were that whoever opened the letter when it arrived would most likely chuckle and toss it in the trash, but I also knew there was a chance I'd get a reply. I was in the middle of the first week of a three week tour at the time I tossed the letter in the mail. When I got home to my surprise there was a letter from the HPD waiting for me in the mail.

It was without a doubt one of the funniest replies I have ever recieved. My guess is that whoever opened it passed it on to a couple of pretty hard bitten robbery detectives to answer.

I can't remember the exact wording of the letter, but the gist of it was that the HPD had no juristiction over the case of the missing sledgehammer and they said they could not begin to speculate without an investigation of their own.

The complimented me on trying to solve the mystery by seeking out Charlie Chan, however they could not locate Charlie at the time and had been trying to locate him for some time.

It seems that (according to them) back in 1953 Charlie had run off with a Rio showgirl and the HPD was trying to chase him down for back child support for all of those kids that he was supporting and had run out on.

When I returned to work I brought copies of both letters with me and dropped them both on the desk of my port captain, who was not the same guy that had started the whole mess in the first place. He was greatly amused and passes them on to the troublemaker as well as everyone else at the office.

Hilarity ensued.

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