The Illict Bear Exchange: New Zealand 2007

Best friends- They never let you do something stupid…alone. But they will definitely blog about it six years later. Casey and I have been best friends for about ten years. We have a “opposites attract” type of friendship. I tend to wander randomly—usually following something sparkly— while Casey has the colour printed Google map, highlighted with every tourist destination and bathroom marked. I’d like to think that she keeps me grounded and on schedule while I occasionally give her heart attacks with my stories. Our friendship is tried and tested— as evidenced by “The Illicit Bear Exchange of New Zealand 2007.

We had just arrived in Wellington, our third stop in our seven-city “backpacking” tour of New Zealand. I will use the term “backpacking” loosely. We had backpacks, but we made a deal with Casey’s parents, who were extremely generous in sponsoring us (i.e. paying for the entire trip because they are unbelievable and AWESOME!), to use a travel agent and stay in hotels. Our travel agent took a liberal interpretation to “backpack” and we somehow ended up touring the best five star hotels in New Zealand. Being the flexible and compassionate human beings we are, Casey and I accepted this fate.

Our hotel, like the previous hotels, was extraordinary, albeit slightly more on the dysfunctional side. We had just returned to our three room/ 2 bath suite (okay that’s the last I’m rubbing it in) after a day of extreme sightseeing. I had nearly passed out, when I heard Casey frantically turning out her sheets and rummaging through her luggage.

“Aheli? Have you Seen Boston any where? I can’t find him!”

Boston referring of course to her childhood stuffed bear, and not the city.

“Um. No. Did you check the living room?” (Yes, there was a living room. I’m telling you  fancy hotels!)

Shuffle. Bang. Shuffle Shuffle. Lights On. Blankets ripped off me. All of a sudden, I found myself shivering and with a very distraught Casey hovering over me.

“Aheli! I can’t find him anywhere”

Rut Roh.  Now I don’t recall the exact details, but I know there was some yelling, crying, and culminated when Casey inadvertently accused me of purposely hiding her bear. So I did what any rational sleep-deprived human being would do when being prevented from a very comfy bed because of a stray stuffed bear.

I yelled at her.

Now people who know me, and even people who don’t, know that I don’t yell at people. I prefer to standard New England cold silent treatment. However, sensing the impending full on freak-out, and it was going to be a full-blown freak-out because back in 2007 Casey did not handle unexpected crises well.  This has always amused me because she is the best person to go to when you have a crisis… but that’s neither here nor there. I told Case to “sit down” and “hush up, while I handle this.” She to her credit didn’t punch me. She would have won. She was the captain of her rugby team, and she could have done it.

I marched over to the phone, and dialed reception.

“Hello Concierage. How can I help you?”

“Hi, I’m calling from the penthouse. I wanted to know if anyone had by any chance, um, reported a missing bear?

Silence.

“Hello? Helloooo? Did you hear what I just said?”

“Mam, I’m sorry, did you say missing bear?”

“Yes. A missing bear.”

Silence.

“Mam. I ,um, I don’t see any reports of a missing bear here.”

“Can you please check with the cleaning staff? I’d be happy to wait.”

[Pause.]

“Um. Of course, mam.”

Pause.

“I’d be happy to give you a description”

“A description? Oh. Okay, what does the bear look like?”

“It’s White.”

“White?”

“It has brown beady eyes.”

“Brown beady eyes?”

“It’s stuffed.”

“It’s stuffed! Oh my. Oh it’s. It’s a teddy bear!”

Oh dear lord. Clearly, I was surrounded by all sorts of sensible people then.

“Yes, of course, it’s a Teddy Bear. Did you think I was reporting a real bear?”

[Pause] “Um no, mam. [Pause]. Um okay mam. I see her that there is a note from laundry room that they found something. I can have that sent up to you as soon as possible.”

“Good. That’s great. Thanks”

After hanging up, I turned around to Casey, who to her credit, was sitting in a chair and not hovering over me.

“Well. Did they, um, find Boston?”

“Yeah, don’t worry. They are sending it up.”

It turns out that Boston must have been lazing around in bed during our site seeing adventures, and housekeeping accidently took him with the bed sheets. We waited for ten minutes, and just on the precipice of a full-on heart attack, we heard the doorbell ring. Fearing the rugby tackle the concierge might get from the President of the Fairfield University Rugby Club, I leapt towards the door, and flung it open. There standing in the doorway was a boy no more than twenty years old wearing the biggest, most shady smirk ever. He slowly looked me up and down, and then reached out, holding a medium sized brown paper bag.

“No Charge, Mam.”

And with a wink he was gone. Left holding the bag and I got the distinct feeling that I had just taken part of some illicit bear-drug deal! Casey gave me a giant hug, triumphantly paraded around the apartment, celebrating the return of Boston. After analyzing the events, we returned to our respective beds, ready to pass out.

“Case- mind turning off the lights?”

“Aheli. The lights are off. I think its Boston”

Sure enough. The lights were off. Apparently on Boston’s escape from the penthouse, he took a detour through the industrial wash, and was currently serving as an uninvited night light. Needless to say, Boston spent the rest of the trip in a suitcase, never to escape again.

Postscript:

I wrote this story both to mock Casey (obviously) and also reminisce on the peculiarities of our friendship. I feel super lucky (and sappy) to have such an amazing best friend who will laugh over these stories (trust me she has a lot of me, I’m just waiting for her blog). We’re currently separated by the Atlantic, and I no longer get to see her on a daily basis, but every time I do get to see or chat with her it’s like nothing has changed. I also wrote this because few people can pinpoint that moment when a friend becomes a best friend.  Bonus points for us because it’s a hilarious story AND set in a great location. We’re totally going to be those 110 year olds shaking our canes over a heated game of UNO (which I will obviously win), being absolutely ridiculous and loving every minute of it.

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