By now, the appropriate check has passed from one appropriate hand to the other. But for a while this summer, as the old rock-and-roll song might have put it, there was a whole lotta duckin' goin' on.
The duckers were the owner and various employees of Old Chicago Express, a pizzeria on Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church. The duckees were Dennis Scanlon and his family, who live nearby on Meadow Lane.
Usually, a complaint against a pizzeria involves insufficient pepperoni, undercooked crust or a kid who nearly ran over 10 cats as he hastened to deliver the pie to your door. But this time, the issue was footprints. Six big, fat ones were left in the Scanlons' freshly poured driveway by a young man who was slipping Old Chicago Express handbills under Meadow Lane doors in late August.
According to Dennis, the footprint-inflicter must have been daydreaming pretty intensely when he left the fateful evidence.
"He walked right across the middle of the driveway," Dennis recalls. "It wasn't as if he didn't notice the concrete had just been poured. It was carefully marked off. My 3-year-old and 4-year-old were able to stay out of it all day" while the concrete dried.
As the footprints hardened into a permanent part of the Scanlon landscape, Mary Scanlon, Dennis's wife, called Old Chicago Express and demanded payment. The manager at the time, Mohammed Ali, replied that he'd pass a message on to the owner, Sam Gaser. But neither called back.
The next day, Dennis Scanlon called again. Sam Gaser said he'd try to get in touch with the leaflet- and footprint-leaver to arrange for the sinner to become the payer. But neither Sam Gaser nor his employee called back.
Dennis waited several more days. He called Sam Gaser again. According to Dennis, the owner cursed at him this time and told him to stop calling.
So Dennis turned to the court of last resort, Robert F. Levey, proprietor. Researcher Cathy McCulloch called Old Chicago Express, and what a surprise! Justice started flowing like fine wine.
The current manager, Nader Habib, looked into the incident and discovered that the leaflet-leaver was a summer employee who had vanished without a trace. So Nader Habib checked again with Sam Gaser. This time, aware that the newspaper was on the case, Sam called Dennis Scanlon and agreed to pay the cost of repouring the concrete.
The Scanlons did not actually see the damage being inflicted. If they had, it would have been a simple matter -- and an advisable tactic -- to demand payment on the spot, or at least a written promise to provide payment later.
But because there were no witnesses, the Scanlons probably should have started writing letters as soon as the first call to Old Chicago went unreturned.
The Levey court never minds springing into action, but it can't chase down every reluctant businessman and every daydreaming handbiller. A letter -- nasty if you insist -- has all the legal force you'll ever need.
Like John Simcox, of Silver Spring, I'm occasionally the victim of my own clumsiness. Like John Simcox, I put an uncapped pen in a dress shirt pocket one day last month -- tip down.
In my case, this led directly to a) rivers of naughty language, b) a wretched blotch on my shirt pocket the rest of the day and c) a permanent transfer of that shirt from the workaday part of the closet to the Sundays-only part.
In John's case, it led to a lunch-hour visit to the Windsor Shirt Company of International Square, where he bought a new shirt. Transaction completed, John said he'd wear his new purchase. He asked "half in jest" if the sales clerk had an iron he could use to remove the wrinkles from the new shirt.
To his amazement, the clerk offered to do the ironing for him, even though there were other customers in the store at the time. "Isn't that incredible service?" John asks.
Who is the iron-wielding angel of Windsorland? The good news is that I couldn't find out her name -- because there are two of them.
Sales clerks Amy Hamilton and Molly Murrin say they iron the wrinkles out of a new shirt at least once a month, while the customer waits. Neither Amy nor Molly remembered John specifically, because so many of their lunch-hour shirt sales are caused by coffee or ink stains. Regardless, the two clerks say that ironing wrinkles out of new shirts is just part of the job.
Not everywhere, ladies. Not by a long shot. Nice work.
Not all Lortonians consider Lorton Reformatory a lousy neighbor. One local resident considers the pen a source of humor.
A sign in front of a private home in a Lorton real estate development reads:
PRISON VIEW ESTATES