Getting too comfortable in your environment is a sin. After a run-in with a local Kingston resident, I realized that’s for good reason.
After three years in Kingston, I’ll admit my cockiness has the tendency to get the better of me. I tend to forget I live in a real town and not a student jungle gym. My most recent wake-up call involved a pylon, a Fiat, and an angry, elderly Kingstonian.
My friend Eli and I had given a presentation in one of our classes and were hungover after a night out. However, our success after presenting in a less-than-refined state was all the more satisfying. Flying high on our ridiculous achievement, we bought a couple of lattes in celebration.
On our walk back to Eli’s parked car, both of us mulling over the events of our night out, we were stopped in our tracks by an unlikely enemy: a large, orange pylon.
[W]e were stopped in our tracks by an unlikely enemy: a large, orange pylon.
The two of us were well-acquainted with this pylon. For the past two weeks, we’d return to Eli’s parking spot to find a pylon in front of the car, blocking our exit.
I told Eli I was tired of the pylon blocking our exit everyday. She agreed, and I offered a suitable solution to our problem: “Let’s just take it.”
I’m not historically known for good ideas. When my older sister complained to me about her loose tooth many years ago, my instinct was to hit her in the face with my Makeup Mindy doll to knock it out. Years later, In elementary school, I told my teacher a kid had injured himself so she’d leave the room and I could steal candy from her desk. I thought placing the pylon in the back of Eli’s car would make me a hero for the second time in my life.
Laughing harder than was appropriate, we drove away with our new suburban souvenir in the backseat, stashing it in a city park.
Later that day, Eli parked in the same spot with no issue. After class finished, we went to Eli’s car and I appreciated leaving without the pylon in our way.
As Eli started the engine, we watched an elderly women leave her front door. She walked down her steps, pulled out her iPhone, and began taking pictures of us. She rudely didn’t even bother to snap my side profile, which is my ‘good side.’ Once she had enough of those, she snapped close-ups of Eli’s license plate.
When she finished taking pictures, the woman made eye contact with us and made an, ‘I’m watching you,’ gesture with her fingers. She returned to her house, passing a sign on her mailbox that read, “You’ve Entered the Lion’s Den.”
Mouths agape, Eli and I looked at each other. The woman’s entrance to the street, photoshoot, and exit into her house had taken about thirty seconds altogether, but it felt like the longest half-minute of my life.
“Is this about the pylon?” Eli asked. “Oh my god. It’s her pylon.”
We had to get it back to her, but there was a problem: we lost it.
Eli quickly made the connection between our earlier theft and the unusual behaviour: We’d stolen this elderly Kingstonian’s pylon. The easy solution would be to simply return the pylon to where it belonged and flee. Unfortunately, we couldn’t remember where we’d stashed it.
The easy solution would be to simply return the pylon to where it belonged and flee. Unfortunately, we couldn’t remember where we’d stashed it.
Facing a predicament, we drove to every park in Kingston, searching for the pylon. How we forgot which park we dropped it off at, I couldn’t tell you. But with a little bit of luck, and on our third location of the day, we found it.
Convinced this woman already had the cops tracking Eli’s Fiat, we were terrified this pylon would get us thrown in jail. We pulled it together and devised a game plan: We’d drop the pylon off near the woman’s house, telling her we’d moved it up the road to allow cars to pass.
Before parting ways with our pylon, we did take several pictures with it in the parking lot, for evidence of the showdown.
On a post-hangover rush of adrenaline and caffeine, we approached the woman’s door. We rang the doorbell several times with no answer, and we were ready to give up when we heard a woman yelling and swearing at her husband on the other side of the door. Hopeful that we’d finally come face-to-face with her—and also gravely terrified we knocked on the door again.
After a solid 45 seconds of trying to open the door from the inside, the woman poked her head out.
“Yes?” she asked.
Eli and I braced ourselves and said, “We’re the people you were taking pictures of. We just wanted to let you know that we’d only moved your pylon down the road to move it out of traffic. It’s just a couple houses over.”
The woman looked over to try and spot her pylon. When she did, her face immediately beamed.
“Oh my,” she responded. “Thank you very much. My mistake. I thought you two were thieves but, as it turns out, you’re humanitarians!”
My heart rate dropping, I wondered if she believed our story, though I quickly moved on. I figured it didn’t matter either way.
“Thank you for making sure I knew where it was, girls,” the woman continued. “I’ll be sure to delete those photos.” She entered her house and closed the door behind her.
Eli and I stared at each other in disbelief and walked back to the car in silence. As we drove home, Eli and I agreed she certainly wasn’t deleting the photos.
Now, weeks later, I’ve had sufficient time to reflect on the teachable moments of this messy situation. The incident taught me that—quite shockingly—there are repercussions for theft. I also learned the importance of keeping track of my belongings at all times, especially if they’re not actually mine. I also realized that a higher power will punish you for going to class hungover.
Most importantly, I discovered how easily Queen’s students can forget that this town we live in isn’t our playground. Kingston is, in fact, a real town, filled with real people. Before you go stealing a pylon from a residential neighbourhood out of pride, remember you’re in someone else’s home, and it’s illegal to steal things.
I discovered how easily Queen’s students can forget that this town we live in isn’t our playground.
Watch how you treat the oft-overlooked town around us—you never know, a moment of glory could have you entering the Lion’s Den.
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