(This story was recounted to me by one of my dental colleagues, Dr. John Larounis and dear friends. It is a bit of a confession and should be read with understanding and kindness).
About 30 years ago, I was reading the newspaper in bed before retiring. It announced a Labor Day sale at Alexander's, on Fordham Road in the Bronx. There were three items on sale that were dirt cheap: an iron, a toaster and an electric grill.
I told my wife I was going to Alexander's to buy all three items. She said, "Don't go. We don't need any of those items."
I said, "I don't care. They are so cheap in price that I must take advantage of the sale."
On the sale day, I got into my car and went to Alexander's very early in the morning to beat the crowds. As I approached Alexander's, traffic became congested and I saw mobs of people in the street. I found a parking spot eight blocks from the store.
The police were allowing people to enter in the same numbers as people left. I waited on line and when my turn came I finally got into the store.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Thousands of people milling around. Empty boxes and crates all over the floor. Total confusion as though a tornado had struck Alexander's.
I was on a mission! I could not face going home empty-handed after my wife's admonition, "Don't go." I could not find a box that contained merchandise. The cartons strewn all over the floor were empty.
As I was about to leave, and give up, I saw a plasterboard leaning against a wall. A little old lady in her 80's had gripped the board and with all her might ripped the board free from the wall.
I peered over the board that the little old lady was holding. I spied one lonely box that was perfectly intact. I reached across the board and picked up my treasure. It was full!
The little old lady, still holding the plasterboard, said, "Mistah - dat's mine." I paid no attention. I slipped it under my arm and tried to fade, unobtrusively into the crowd. I glanced behind me and saw the little old lady, still holding the plasterboard, and still yelling, "Mistah - dat's mine."
I hurriedly paid for the item and darted for the exit. I could still hear her yelling above all the din and confusion. I didn't know what my prize was when I snatched it. It didn't matter. I was going home with "something."
Actually my treasure was an electric grill. It lasted many years, until the automatic timer broke and we threw it out.
I was wrong. It was her find. I apologize belatedly to her even though she's probably long gone by now. Till this very day on occasion I am haunted by a little voice yelling, "Mistah - dat's mine."
Dr. John Larounis as told to Stanley Greenberg