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Face-off with Whataburglar leads back to Baylor

Nov. 30, 2005

by JIM RAY, columnist

"I've got a .45, and I'm gonna blow ya head off," he yelled.

He was pedaling furiously behind me on a bike meant for someone half his size. I coasted for a moment and turned to watch him feel around in his gym shorts.

His threat implied an easy question: Would you rather keep your head or your hamburger? But I was hung up on another one: Is the elastic band on those shorts strong enough to support a firearm?

Before I call his bluff, I'd better explain how the bike chase began. I'll start with the where and when.

Midnight. Whataburger.

When I left the restaurant with my to-go order, I noticed my bike had been mysteriously overturned. Lined up beside the door were the seven suspects -- high schoolers, I figured. One of them struck up a conversation.

"What's in the bag?" he asked, cordially. I told him and another one said, "We want it."

Here I faced a harder decision: Should you abandon the burger and your dignity or pretend as if this isn't happening?

Clutching the sack, I incredulously left the scene. A hamburger mugging was just too fantastic.

That was before I heard him coming. In seconds he caught up on his tricycle-sized bike. Breathlessly, he said, "Cudda' say if you don't give him yo hamburger he's gonna kick yo (expletives)."

Cudda', assumedly their leader, had already planned an impressive string of punishments for my stubbornness, according to this kid at least.

My pursuer drew close to me and went on with more of the same -- Cudda' say this and Cudda' say that.

"Cudda' say lots of things," I told him, not knowing this statement would spirit him to the precipice of desperation.

He was already frustrated by honking, swerving cars (each driver got the finger, a gesture he also verbalized for emphasis). And this hamburglar initiation mission was probably irksome, too, considering the vehicle provided.

So he reached in his pants, widened his eyes and explained that my attachment to this Whatameal would make it my last.

We were whipping under the overpass, heading to the Baylor side when he called out, "I'm gonna kill you!"

Then he was nearly flattened by a car. "Not if you get run over first," I yelled, which brought an end to his patience. Enraged, he screamed, "What did you say to me?"

Incredibly, we were now going along at a leisurely pace. I told him not to worry; I was only concerned about his safety.

We spent the rest of the chase without any chatter. He tailed me through the Brooks Hall causeway, where I steeled myself for the blows to come.

But when we entered Baylor's inner sanctum, he was mesmerized.

Forgetting about me and his mission, the kid looked around with wonder-filled eyes. I chained up my bike and waited for Baylor's voodoo to wear off. Then I gave him a bluff of my own.

"You're going to need more of your buddies to take my sandwich," I said. Luckily, he was open to suggestion.

"All right. Wait here," he replied.

I said, "Fine," watched him leave and went inside the dormitory.

If a reader of this column recognizes himself as the main character, it has done its job.

I'd like to apologize for skipping out on our date and challenge you to another one this Friday.

We'll meet in the spot where we sparred five years ago. There's much to learn from each other and a lot of catching up to do. I can tell you about this emerald town and its ignorance of the city surrounding it. Come alone, though. I'm only bringing one burger.

Jim Ray is a graduate student in journalism from Hinton, Okla.