In an effort to differentiate from the rest of the teams at the SF Street Food Festival, we brought all our favorite plushies. Most importantly, we brought Toad. Our mascot.
After bringing Toad along for more than a year on various journeys around the world, I had no qualms. He along with Boo, Domokun and Hambone would provide funny additions to our team.
As we navigated the festival with 30 minutes remainingt, Chris and I got separated. When I caught up with Chris, he asked for my bag…the red bag where I usually put Toad.
But Toad was not there!
Earlier I had secured Toad inside the bag…in a way so that he would not fall out.
Replacement Toads? Possible?
But Chris refused. I don’t care anymore about the hunt. And he hastily followed my footsteps—the path I took as we trailed out. As we ran into people we saw in the last 30 minutes, we asked if they had noticed anything in my bag. He asked the festivals organizers. But describing Toad was impossible. Nobody knew. We studied the ground. We were panicking.
And during all of this…how could Toad have fallen out? What kind of person would pick up Toad? Moreover, what kind of person would keep him?
Then we ran into a FattyBoomBlatty team member (the #1 team at that point…we were #2). She was making an announcement for the hunt on a blowhorn and Chris wanted to borrow it asking if he could make an announcement to find Toad.
“The little mushroom guy? Oh I know where he is! I thought it was weird that someone else brought Toad. He looked pretty shady. He was walking around with Toad under his jacket like he was hiding something. ” she replied.
Then she led us to a group of people sitting at the tables. They were dressed down, a bit shady…the kind that I would instantly label as potheads…i-don’t-care-about-what-people-think…grungey…dirty-looking…the kind that dress in camo. One guy was holding Toad in his hands, upside-down, flipping him over and over again as he talked with his friends. He had a nonchalant look on his face—not of glory, not of fondness…nothing at all.
Chris walked up to them and bluntly said, “Excuse me, I think the little doll is ours.”
His friends glanced at us wearily.
Appalled and relieved, I must have said something weakly, “How did you get Toad?” But inside I started wondering: Could I knock him down and wrestle Toad away from him? In that current elevated state, I was ready to do anything.
“I bought him at a store for full price,” the kidnapper responded with an disagreeable laugh.
He licked his lips as we stood there disgustedly.
“I can give him back to you—for a price.” Then he added, “I licked him all over.”
The guy surprisingly handed Toad over and said, “Do I get anything in return? ”
I studied Toad and…he seemed clean…but perhaps I’ll need to rub him with soap to get rid of the thief’s cooties.
We paused…searching our pockets. Why give him anything when it is clear he took Toad from us? I had no proof of course, but this was ridiculous. I thought back to the usual items of bribery like cigarettes or alcohol—I did have those bottles of beer that take up space in my fridge… I didn’t want to give money for something that was rightfully ours. But Chris finally produced a pack of gum we got earlier as a promotion from SF Foodie.
The guy accepted it and we held Toad tight for the rest of the festival. Comforting Toad as he was back rightfully with us.