The Malta Independent 11 December 2019, Wednesday

Boy, did I get a wrong number

Sunday, 25 August 2019, 11:50 Last update: about 5 months ago

One afternoon last week, on my way to this Bugibba rocky beach, just up the road from its perched Jordanian-sand version, as is my wont, I dropped into a delightful sweet and beverage shop next door to MaltaPost’s office.

Engaging in small-talk with the owner, Mark, is as pleasant as the goodies he has on offer.

But things took a turn from the norm that afternoon. Seeing a customer entering, I moved away from the counter, clearing the deck for Mark to make the next sale.

The customer walking in was a burly bare (and bear) -chested Englishman wearing his tattoos like trophies.

Taking off his Panama hat, he plonked it on the top of a range of mineral water bottles stacked up, flush and level, with the counter.

Having made his purchase, after shooting the breeze with idle chit-chat, he lifted his hat to reveal a cell-phone which, rather awkwardly and unnaturally, he picked up with the same hand and walked out of the shop.

Minutes later, a middle-aged Dutch couple rushed in, the woman excitedly asking Mark whether she had left her cell-phone behind when they were in the shop earlier.

“Yes”, replied Mark, “but this man took it as though it was his.

Mark spent many years in the UK, and the British sense of fair-play has rubbed off on him, but now here he was, a potential suspect. After a moment’s hesitation, he said: “Don’t worry. We’ll check what the CCTV cameras picked up.”

And there he was, as clear as day, tattoos and all – and that Panama hat.

So Mark, using his phone, and enlarging the image of the man on the CCTV monitor, took a picture off the monitor onto his phone and sent it to the Dutch gentleman’s phone.

He then suggested that the couple first go to look for him on the perched sandy beach across the road, now knowing clearly what he looked like, and then try the Police station – which is where they finally found themselves.

They came back to tell Mark what had happened after having searched for him high and low – presumably more low than high.

The husband then came up with a real corker: send the man the picture they had of him with the message that he would be arrested at the airport Customs before boarding the plane back home.

The man panicked, and had his wife call back to tell the Dutch couple to pick up the phone from the reception desk at the hotel where the English couple were staying.

The Dutch couple duly did this, were given their phone and told that the English couple were out for the evening.

How the man must have felt a fool, and how cell-phones and Malta will never be the same again.

Never mind, Malta – he may never want to see the Island again. But how can he avoid never seeing another cell-phone again?


Joe Genovese


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