“Do you have the receipt?” This, from the clerk who sold me on, and then sold to me this very piece of equipment, less than 24 hours ago. The tag is still on it, and quite visible.

I am still exhausted from yesterday, a little sunburned, dehydrated. Cranky. “You gotta be kid – – “ I notice he can’t keep a straight face. He is kidding.

“So, wow, you gave up already?” he says, feigning disappointment but not entirely. He shrugs, resigned to the fact that yesterday’s sale will be today’s return.

“You told me,” I remind him, “That this would pay for itself in the very first day!”

Radio Shack Rick, according to his plastic nametag, snorts a little at that. He’s a good-natured guy and his smile never leaves his face. His boss probably doesn’t like him to make refunds this easy, so he goes through the moti0ns. He mumbles something about that not being any sort of money-back guarantee, and that he probably shouldn’t do it, but he gets me my money back.

When the seventy-six dollars and change is in my pocket, I continue what I had started to tell him. “You were right!” I say. His smile takes on a look of the confused variety. “I was right?”

“About that paying for itself right away!” “But, then…” I finish his question for him. “Why am I returning it?” His eyebrows go up. Exactly. Why?

So I tell him about yesterday. The day that my purchase, the Coinmaster Classic paid for itself.

I skipped the part about what an ordeal it had been to find a parking spot in the same zip code as the beach. About how the three-pound piece of equipment started to feel like thirty by the time I reached the sand. How my calves began to hurt as I trekked along the dunes, avoiding the crowd near the water. I didn’t bother telling Rick about how the cap I wore to protect my scalp from the sun funneled sweat and sunscreen into my eyes. Those were all good reasons to return my purchase for a refund, but none were the actual reason.

It took a while, I told Rick, to get to the perfect hunting ground. Powdery sand, footprints and imprints of umbrellas and coolers that had been there not all that long ago. No crowd at present, though. This is how you find treasure; I’d been told. Keys, coins, bottle openers, jewelry. My finger was on the power switch when I saw a huge obstacle.

The man was standing in the sand like some huge Roman centurion. He had been there so long, his sunburn had a sunburn. The floppy hat and sunglasses he wore were probably to keep the glow of his skin from blinding him. He was already watching me when I looked up and saw him. He didn’t speak a word, just leaned up against the handle of his own metal detector, put his other hand on his hip, and glared at me. Everything about him said “You will not pass this way.” This was his turf, if that’s possible in a large expanse of sand. “Hello,” I said. Nothing said he. “Looks like you have the Coinmaster III?” I asked, nodding at his metal detector. I recognized the model, since Rick had tried to upsell me one yesterday. The man’s only answer was to spit in the sand, in my direction, and cross his huge arms across his chest.  

I like to choose my battles, or more correctly, choose not to battle. Let this guy have this territory and all its treasure, his very own empire of tiny silicone dioxide and quart nuggets. I wonder if he realized I was walking off with part of his own private beach in the insides of my canvas shoes.

I waved at him, signaling my surrender, and turned to find a different spot to treasure hunt.  Goodbye, Emperor, I thought. A brief flash of “Just who does he think he is?” came over me. I snapped on my metal detector and dialed the sensitivity knob to maximum. Maybe I’d get a few chirps as I left and make the bully wonder what I had found.

I was about out of sight (I turned around a few times and he was still staring) when one of my wide passes with the Coinmaster paid off. All I’d wanted was a beep or two, and I could pretend I’d found something valuable. What I got was a cacophony of loud squawks and squeals. It sounded like feedback from a failed soundcheck at a rock concert. Perfect! I was glad I let Rick upsell me on the copper top batteries, they were making sweet music. I let it go on as long as possible. I didn’t have to turn around to know the King of the Beach was curious and still watching.

Finally, I switched the metal detector off. I unwrapped my beach towel from around my shoulders, wiped the sweat off my face, and started digging. By all indications, there was a treasure chest buried here. It wasn’t as shallow as my back and arms would have liked.

I almost shouted when my hands closed around something large and solid. My tired muscles stopped complaining as they got a shot of adrenaline. I turned around and verified that the man was watching. Curiosity was killing him, I could only hope. I eyeballed him at intervals as I unearthed my treasure, keeping it shielded from his sight. He wasn’t coming any closer, but he wasn’t leaving either.

When I had carefully brushed all the sand off my discovery, I contemplated raising it over my head and roaring in triumph. But I didn’t. Instead, I carefully wrapped it in my beach towel. I straightened up with my mystery treasure in one hand, my trusty Coinmaster in the other, and I left. I thought I heard a defeated “Hey!” from behind me, but I might have imagined that.  

Now Radio Shack Rick is staring at me, his mouth slightly open, as I put my beach towel wrapped package on the glass counter. “This,” I told him, unwrapping it ever so slowly, “Is how the Coinmaster paid for itself yesterday!”

We both laugh, looking at the near mint metal detector that I had found buried in the sand. Why and how it got there, neither of us will probably ever know. But it’s a nice triumph, and I can tell that Rick is glad I shared it with him.

My business and story concluded, I leave Radio Shack, my Coinmaster II wrapped back up and under my arm.

I’m almost out the door, by the display of radio-controlled cars, when Rick calls out. “Hey!” He’s not about to let me leave without trying to sell me something. “You probably want fresh batteries for that thing.” He’s right. “Give me the copper tops, Rick,” I say. “I’m feeling lucky.”