Nov 28, 2012 - life    9 Comments

The Case of the Missing Mollusks

Yesterday, one of my friends (who is a newspaper reporter) shared a post from the Ellsworth Police Department’s wall:

were you driving a Blue 4 Door Chevy Car with State, “University” plates with two wreaths in the rear seat?
Do you now have a large plastic tub with cups containing scallop guts intended for a research project at the University of Maine?
My husband put them in the wrong car by mistake. Please call: ###-####


So… this killed me. I posted on my friend’s share, and then shared it myself with the note “You wish you lived in Maine.” I said that it had all the elements of the perfect Maine story — shellfish, evergreen wreaths, the UMaine system, science, and two unattended and unlocked cars. It got shared by others, and a reporter for the area wrote it up in the BDN:” Southwest Harbor man seeking scallop guts after putting them in the wrong car.” (Which is where I learned it wasn’t two cars nearby, but just a mixup, but still.) Another friend noted that the 7 digit phone number added to the perfect Maine-ness, which, I had totally missed the first time. Not to mention putting your home phone number on the PD’s Facebook wall! Mainers. We are trusting folks.

It’s just the perfect Maine police beat story. In so many ways. And this morning, it was made even more perfect, when I woke to a facebook message from my graduate school advisor. “I was driving that car with the scallop guts in it. I’ll call when it gets to be a reasonable time.”

I thought she was kidding. She drives a Subaru — I KNOW this! but when I replied with “You are kidding, right?! Because if you aren’t, this puts this story right over the top for me as Perfect Maine Story!!” she responded: “no… not kidding…. I posted earlier on the Ellsworth Police FB…. MAN! I was puzzled! I could NOT figure out how I missed them all the times I got in and out of the car on Monday!”

Since this conversation was taking place before 7 am, the scallop guy hasn’t been reached yet. But I have the details from her side of the story:

“When I got back to campus Monday night, I left a note for [redacted] saying, “what’s with those buckets in the backseat?” She was all for calling the motor pool and having them dumped. I said wait until I contact the school I was visiting to see if someone from there put them in the car. I did call the school but no one returned my call – luckily I saw your post this morning (and [the newspaper reporter’s])…. I left the original poster a message on FB but I’ll call at 7:30.”

And there you have it. Social media solved the case of the missing mollusks. I had forgotten the key element of the perfect Maine story before — “you are one degree from the subject.” And now, there is no more awesome Maine story I could be a part of.

Edited to add a link to the followup story on the BDN: Lost scallop guts found in car of UM associate professor (the other FB friend of hers was the original reporter I mentioned!)

Edited a second time to add the blog post of the grad student whose scallop gonads were lost. I love the internet. Found: My lost ‘nads.

Edited for a third time to add the link to the Colbert Report!



  • My wife short handed her Facebook plea. In the back seat, I placed a 5 gallon bucket with a lid containing a 6 liter bottle of formaldehyde and a large plastic tub. The tub was transparent. It contained nearly 100 neatly stacked, plastic cups. Each cup had a bold number on the lid and contained a scallop gonad, preserved in formaldehyde. On the side of the tub, was the name of professor who was advising Skylar on her research. We explained that to all the news outlets (I thank them for spreading the story!) who couldn’t bring themselves to use the word, “gonad”; perhaps it being too scientic and scandalous for the masses.
    I am extremely grateful to the driver of the car for her concern, natural curiosity and action to protect these samples. I am disappointed that the University of Maine, an institution of higher learning, has an individual who’s immediate reaction is to “dump” something so obviously important and labeled with Dr. Wahle’s name.. Papers directly underneath the see through lid (resting on the stacks of sample cups) also contained our names and other identifying information.

    • Thanks for commenting, Andy! Gail is a top-notch individual, and you certainly placed them in the ‘right’ wrong car that day. “Concern, natural curiosity, and action” are words that describe Gail in many ways — not just in relation to the care and keeping of scallop gonads!

      • I told a stunned Skylar, gazing forlornly at the empty parking space which had contained “the car” just minutes ago, “Don’t worry!! This kind of shit happens to me ALL the time (it does) and it ALWAYS works out. And, I usually make a new friend.”

        That, is Maine.

    • Ps. Enjoyed your commentary very much. You obviously “get” the humor, irony and happy elements of this story and the awesomeness of living in Maine!

  • Thanks for posting, Gretchen! It’s a crazy world we live in. Glad to have my samples back.

    • I must correct the record here so as not to impugn someone’s reputation unfairly. The person who suggested dumping them hadn’t seen them at all – indeed had only heard that there were plastic buckets labeled formaldehyde in the back of a college car.

      It never occurred to me that they landed in the car during the 2 minutes that I was in the Onestop. And all the other times I left the car that day, I locked it. At the end of a long day, it seemed to be the most logical thing — to leave them in the vehicle because the owner would know exactly where to find them.
      I just learned this morning that there was a name and a phone number on them….

      • Abigail,
        1st. Thanks for your thinking which protected and saved the samples.
        2nd. Thanks for setting me straight on my mistake about the person who suggested to dump it. Knowing the reporting inaccuracies in the story, I should have given them the benefit and an opportunity for further explanation.

  • Andy,
    I heard the story made Howie Carr last night (Boston radio show) on his Police Blotter Friday.
    Your comment about weird things always happening to you seems to indicate that maybe you should write up some of these stories. And I hope you’ll conclude that you’ve made two friends, not just one. I’d be happy to spring for a copy of coffee next time you or Michelle are in the area.
    P.S. Thanks for the kind words, Gretchen!

    • Next time, I’ll sit in the back seat and wait for you so we can meet properly!

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