My wife knows I’m easily bored. She claims I became a pastor so that I could quit squirming in the pew and start pacing behind a pulpit. But after ten years of pulpit pacing, I transitioned into pacing hospital corridors. You might say my “calling” had some start with a little boredom – proving God can use even boredom in miraculous ways.
25 years ago, my friends and I were home from college when boredom overtook us quicker than Jimmy Bakker pitching his 800 number.
Figuring drama to be the best antidote for boredom, we assembled our team of scriptwriters – Dave, a thespian; Jeff, the principal’s son; and me, a ministerial student.
The brainstorming started as we examined a blurry Polaroid mug shot of Jeff. Suddenly, Jeff popped off with a masterpiece of inspiration.
“What if I go into a store, draw some attention to myself and then leave?” suggested Jeff. “Then you guys come in showing my picture like you’re cops.”
Imagining the hilarity of a Candid Camera episode, we drove downtown to stage our drama in a shoe store. Parking blocks away from the store, Jeff went inside acting like a nervous escapee shopping for new running shoes.
A few minutes later, Jeff returned and we went inside.
If you envision most of us over six feet tall with facial hair that some say inspired the postmodern goatee, you’d have a good idea of what the clerk saw as we approached him.
Dave held a picture and a fake badge a few inches from the clerk’s startled face and started firing questions.
“Sir, have you seen this man?”
“Not sure,” the clerk squinted. “What’s he done?”
“Sir, we’re not at liberty to say – official police business – routine, I assure you.”
He took another look.
“Wait a minute,” the clerk paused as his subconscious began to birth memories. “He did come in our store – few days ago with some fat woman.”
“It must be Fat Mary,” I said adlibbing. “We heard they were traveling together. That’s good information, sir. If you should see him again, don’t try to detain him.”
With that advice, we abruptly returned to Jeff’s car – a 1960 Ford Galaxy. Now it was Jeff’s turn.
As quickly as Jeff slipped back into the store, a clerk came darting out to find us leaning against a lamppost.
“The man, the man you are looking for?” he huffed, unable to complete his sentence.
“Slow down,” we commanded, “and tell us what you saw.” We knew his line, but we needed the cue.
“That man’s in our store!”
“Stay right here,” we ordered, and in one fluid movement Dave and I bolted through the door, tackled Jeff, handcuffed him and started dragging Jeff to the car.
As a crowd gathered, Jeff sucked in more bystanders with his screams of “I want a lawyer. Get me a lawyer!”
“You’ll need a good one, buddy,” I added in my best Baretta impression.
Suddenly, the crowd was a problem.
“Dave,” I yelled in a whisper, “this crowd isn’t going to believe we have a real police car.”
Dave answered with his own adlib. “He’s probably hidden the drugs in the car. Let’s take it too.”
“Get his keys,” Dave commanded. So with keys in hand, we piled into the car, sped off, and somehow managed to hold our belly laughs until the next block.
However, having some experience in public drama, Dave suggested that we check at the police station and ask if they’d received any erroneous reports on a 1960 Ford Galaxy.
We did and, unfortunately, they had.
“You must be Norris Burkes,” the desk sergeant said as he panned the room naming the rest of us. “Why don’t you boys step to the back.”
For the next two hours we were searched, fingerprinted, photographed, cited and released on our own recognizance.
Our citation ordered us to court a week later. Funny thing was, our names weren’t on the docket, so we had to explain things to the District Attorney.
As the DA stepped to the bench for a whispered conversation with the judge, the only thing we heard was, “They did what?” More whispering and the DA returned.
“The judge ordered you out of his court – and if he ever sees you in this court again, you will be prosecuted!”
Message received loud and clear. Back to the straight and narrow. And whenever I feel the temptation to make a dramatic detour from that narrow path I recall that judge and just how boring six months in jail might have been.