One afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I was walking my dog, Lupita, over the Pfluger pedestrian bridge on Lady Bird Lake. Normally, you’ll just see other walkers, joggers, bikers and hanger-outers on the bridge, but from time-to-time you’ll see plenty of the weird that made Austin famous, too.
That’s why it wasn’t totally out of the question to see, as I glanced to my right, what I immediately recognized as a Bigfoot Garden Yeti sculpture from the dreck-fabulous SkyMall catalog.
The Yeti was tied up in rope and wearing what looked to be red and white checked spats on his feet (these turned out to be, of course, Spongebob Squarepants socks with the toes cut out of them). It seemed to be in the custody of a man about my age sitting on a bench nearby. The Bigfoot Garden Yeti being one of the many, many items in SkyMall that I could never, ever imagine anyone buying, I did a double-take, then a triple-take, then a quadruple-take, all while continuing to walk on by.
Lupita and I walked a few more feet. We stopped. I turned. Could I really walk by without finding out WTF? On the other hand, did I really want to risk an entanglement with a likely crazy person? The Yeti keeper was watching me, clearly eager for me to retrace my steps. “Come on,” his bright eyes seemed to say, “ask me!”
“I just have to ask,” I began, turning back and fully surrendering to my curiosity as he nodded eagerly, “why do you have the Yeti sculpture from SkyMall on the pedestrian bridge?”
His satisfaction was obvious. He looked at his watch. “Only nine and a half minutes,” he crowed.
“You were timing to see how long it would take before someone asked you about the Yeti sculpture from SkyMall?” I asked. This was already interesting.
“Yup,” he said, fairly glowing. “And it sure didn’t take long.”
“OK, so what’s the deal?” I asked.
“Do you know who Flat Stanley is?” he replied.
Oh, geez, I thought. As I feared, this wasn’t going to be easy. “No, I’m afraid I don’t. A cartoon character, maybe?”
“Ah, you don’t have kids, then,” the man said, as the conversation suddenly seemed headed straight down the rathole I worried it might.
“Nope, no kids.”
“Flat Stanley,” he said, “is a character from a kid’s book. And kids like to draw Stanleys and take pictures of them in all kinds of places and send them to their friends.”
“Aha!” I said, finally getting it, sort of. Long story short (Oops—too late!), the man had stolen his friend’s Bigfoot Garden Yeti—which it now occurs to me could just as logically be called Bigfoot Garden Bigfoot, or Yeti Garden Yeti—and planned on doing all sorts of rude things to the statue and sending his friend the photographic evidence. And he crowdsourced me to assist him with this phase of his prank.
Hence the rope tied around the Yeti. The man—who, it must be said, was absolutely delighted throughout this whole encounter—asked me to hang the Yeti by the rope over the bridge railing as if I were going to drop it into the deep, while he took pictures, being careful, he assured me (though I didn’t ask him), not to show my face in the shot. Then he asked me if he could photograph Lupita with the Yeti. That’s when I realized that I had better take a picture, too, because, you know, hey, blog post.
We chatted for a few minutes about the tacky ridiculousness of the Bigfoot Garden Yeti sculpture, and speculated as to why anyone would ever buy it (his friend received it as a gag gift).
Since the man mentioned that his friend lived out of town and didn’t know which one of several geographically scattered friends might have taken it, I advised him to strip the location information out of his photos. He hadn’t thought about that, and thanked me for the tip.
And then Lupita and I were again on our way.
I still love this town.