Andi Best Freelance Designer

Two Strangers and Their Urine: How We Saved €200


  • Published 24-08-2021
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Two Strangers and Their Urine: How We Saved €200
This is the story of two strangers and their urine, with €200 at stake.
Palanga, 2019. Our annual family holiday to the Baltic coastal town. My wife had momentarily parted from my 3yr old daughter and I to use the local library's printing facilities. Printing is perhaps one of the lesser adopted holiday pursuits, but as Ryan Air passengers it is unfortunately an essential one. I'm trying to be conscious of the length of my blog posts and so won't document the full encyclopaedic extent of hardship bestowed by Ryan Air upon those who use their services, but relevant here is the preflight self check-in 'facility'. This only becomes available to customers a few days before the date of departure, so checking in ahead of time for the return flight inconveniently takes place in the middle of an otherwise relaxing break. Try to turn up without your Ryan Air ticket? That's a €300 fine, probably. Have Ryan Air print the ticket for you? That's a €540 fine, possibly. Try to rely on Ryan Air's app to accurately display your e-ticket and it fail for some reason or can't connect to WiFi at the airport? That's a €720 fine, perhaps.
With the odds stacked against us, Ryan Air travellers can only really slalom between the payment penalties by taking matters into their own hands and coming prepared with irrefutable bits of paper.
My daughter was still of the age for mid-day napping in the buggy so until my wife returned I took up a gentle stroll in a bid to soothe her to sleep. The town's central streets are noisy with holiday makers and music and traffic, so I opted to pad around the quieter surrounding residential roads with which I am less familiar. Late into the wander, instead of showing signs of conking out, my daughter sat bolt upright to declare that she needed a wee. Potty trained and therefore devoid of nappy she needed an actual toilet. We'd already ventured too far from public facilities so a dash was out of the question. But ever-prepared, our travel potty was packed in the bowels of the buggy cargo - all we needed was a discreet location to deploy it. And discreet it needed to be! My Lithuanian isn't perfect; I can order meals, hold down a conversation and when all else fails, explain that I'm English and don't speak fluent Lithuanian. I certainly couldn't talk myself out of trouble with the local constabulary if I were reprimanded for allowing my daughter's relatively public relieving herself to break multiple laws I was unaware of. The reputation of some Lithuanian forces is also far from spotless from what I've been told so I really didn't fancy my chances as a foreigner running afoul of them.
The best location I could find in the limited window of time available was the courtyard of a small apartment block flanked by tall trees and a row of garages. Beside the garages were several dumpster bins which would not only provide adequate cover but would also serve to dispose of the waste, so I steered the buggy there and began setting up the portable potty.
With my daughter taking care of business out of sight, I stood back and collected my crisis-averted parent points, strolling inconspicuously around the space. That's when I spotted a tree stump along the fence line.
Upon it was a wallet.
I considered the wallet for a moment. Its situation was most peculiar indeed. It appeared to be positioned quite purposefully in the centre of the heartwood, basking in the sunshine, and was free from dirt or moss so had taken up the post fairly recently. It was modestly bulging with layers of typical wallet ephemera, though of precisely what kind I was reluctant to discover - my DNA was not about to become melded with the mystery of how this wallet came to be so deliberately here atop a bit of nature.
My daughter finished up and joined me in the shade of the trees to see what held my attention. I distractedly explained my findings, realising I was physically shielding her from the scene as though it were a grenade or a corpse. I strapped her back into the buggy and took a few photos of the wallet and street sign affixed to the apartment block before heading back to the market streets.
My wife was uncharacteristically intrigued by my recounting of the discovery, though my daughter was evidently bored of it, choosing now to fall asleep. She managed to remain so despite the pace we were now jogging at to return to the locale of the wallet, my wife excitedly leading the charge. En route, my imagination took the helm and began unfurling unlikely scenarios we'd encounter on re-arrival. The wallet would be gone. The wallet would be open, tampered with. The wallet is a decoy and within the surrounding leaf litter is a wire snare that entraps its prey by the ankles and dangles them helplessly from the branches overhead whilst mobsters spring forth from the bins to steal our possessions raining down from our pockets.
As it turns out the wallet was exactly as I'd left it.
Almost.
It was actually now in my wife's hands and she was feverishly riffling through its crevices, liberally smearing her DNA all over it. We evidently possess different thresholds on caution, but we're following her instincts in her home country so what do I know?
"There's €200 in here" she exclaimed at last.
A short silence of deliberation. Neither of us are morally bankrupt and we instantly recognised this as being a lot of money, perhaps immeasurably so for the owner.
I volunteered that we hand the wallet in somewhere. I am rebuffed. We've established that if the police are not to be trusted, the reliance on local townsfolk to safeguard the wallet would be akin to asking a seagull to safeguard a bag of chips.
My wife is firmly set on returning the wallet to its owner directly so she resumes her riffling for clues. His driving license tells us his name, his Spanish origin, and that his class of authorised vehicles includes HGVs - perhaps he is an international hauler on a stopover here in Lithuania?
Then I spot our next clue in another nook of the wallet; the credit-card sized plastic housing of a mobile phone SIM card, sans the SIM card.
"They usually have the phone number on" I say, assuming this is why one would retain such a thing. Sure enough the phone number for the SIM card is among the printed text and my wife wasted no time punching it into her phone.
Ringing.
Sustained ringing.
No answer.
She tries again.
Ringing.
The click of connection.
When the Lithuanian language leaves my wife's lips it's usually in a spew of rapid articulation that really should be harnessed somehow to generate power for entire villages, but on this call I noticed her reel it back to a slower and more deliberate pace. Her expression was one of anguish and she was blocking her free ear with her finger as if to drown out noise, despite the ambience here under the trees in this quiet courtyard being quite tranquil.
After a while she pulled the phone from her ear.
"He's off his face" she said without hesitation.
"He was out last night, got really drunk and is still in bed now. He is still completely wasted. He had no idea what I was saying to him and I could barely understand him either" she said equal parts disapproving and amused.
This was unexpected, but the narrative was coming together. Full of merriment and beverages the night before our hapless protagonist was caught short, and like my daughter, sought a secluded spot to relieve himself. As he fumbled with his belt buckle the weight of his wallet replete with funds was perhaps hindering effective ejection of his urinary equipment, so he removed it and set it safely down on the first level surface in sight - the tree stump - where after presumably showering it in cast-off (very glad I stuck by my decision not to be the one to handle the wallet), he promptly forgot about it and continued on his hazy adventures.
A few moments passed whilst we debated our next move, taking position in the garden seating of a nearby cafe. Once again the wallet was in focus on a piece of wood beneath a shadowy leafy veil, this time in the centre of a table flanked by two glasses of cola.
It's very tough to remotely determine the sobriety of a person so we weren't sure how much time we should let pass before attempting to call him again, but in all, we ate two meals in this venue and made several attempts to connect before we were successful again. Another languished verbal exchange on the phone ensued and I could already tell from the tone we'd be ordering dessert here.
"He says he's on his way" my wife said unconvincingly.
Another hour later (approximately four and a half into this whole charade) the slide and swing set in the corner of the garden had lost their appeal and our daughter could no longer be placated by snacks. We silently exchanged glances but could read the other's expression well - we had to consider aborting the mission. And just then the phone rang. It was Wallet Man and he was as incoherent as ever. More so actually, because in the background on his line was quite a din of music and chatter. The high street! He was on the high street at last - that was just out front!
I jumped up from the table and jogged out to the pavement, scouring the crowds for him. I knew exactly what he looked like as I'd been in possession of his photo ID for most of the day. There he was, ambling along, phone pressed to his ear, glancing around for our location. I started doing that waving thing you're supposed to do if you're stranded on an island and a helicopter flies by, but he virtually had to walk into me before he even noticed me.
He was dressed like the night before, smelt like the night before and was as wholly contented as he presumably was the night before. A broad grin on his face, his eyes barely open, his expression was like an early Disney drawing of a woodland creature up past its bedtime.
A cloud of foreign language filled the air as my wife came up beside us, and she struggled to contain a chuckle. He was evidently apologising for his tardiness, that he was over an hour late because he spotted someone playing a harmonica on the way and "couldn't resist joining in". My mind conjured him with a total stranger, being roused into an irresistible thigh-slapping jig and producing the enshrouded harmonica he kept about his person for just such occasions.
Classic Wallet Man.
Bursting with mirth he inspected the wallet contents as if for the first time and offered to buy us dinner, then offered to reimburse us for the meals we'd had. We declined on both counts, just happy to finally be rid of the folds of leather, his personal ephemera and the inconvenience of doing a good deed. So instead of payment he offered a kiss on the cheek for my wife, a garbled expulsion of Spanish, Lithuanian and English for me, then turned and left just as blunder-some as he came. And in all likelihood, did the whole thing all over again later that night.
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