The second area I served in was Burlington, Vermont. Our mission was referred to as the New England Mission. It no longer exists. Huge by today’s standards, it has long since been broken up into many smaller missions. I was in Burlington during the winter months. Our apartment was the attic of a building very near to Lake Champlain. Down below was a rest home. The apartment had no provision for heating or cooling and that is the beginning of a number of fun stories, which I will not go into here.
My companion, Elder E. was a slick, competent missionary. When I say slick, I mean he was very comfortable dealing with people and was a capable senior companion. He was an easy-going guy and good to be around. I’m not sure how he felt about me. At least I’m not going to say what I think about that here.
That winter was cold. For one six-week period, the daytime temps didn’t get above 6*F. Night time temps could drop below -40*F. With constant wind and snow on the ground, tracting the streets of Burlington was no picnic and neither one of us were so hardy that we could take more than an hour or two out in that stuff. Hence we tried “telephone contacting.” A sort of ad hoc procedure that involved simply running down names in the phone book, dialing and trying to introduce yourself and your message. It was a singularly unproductive method for us.
One afternoon we were heading back into our digs. To stay out of the weather, we would use the nearby department stores and hardware stores, walking into the front of the store and out the back and into the next store and so on. On a good day, we could get by with this without anyone noticing us. On this afternoon though, I noted that ahead of us, wherever we walked, was a rather unkempt gentleman who kept turning around every few feet, glancing at us and then hurrying on. I didn’t really pay much attention to this.
As we exited our last shelter-store and headed to the cross street just east of our apartment, I noticed this guy again, still ahead of us. We were walking a bit faster now hoping to get out of the cold wind. We gained on this man until we were about 6 feet back of him. Suddenly he turned around, rushed us and started saying, “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it! Honest!” We realized immediately that he thought we were plain-clothes police who had been “following” him for the last half-hour. I guess we did look like cops of the day, wearing suits, ties, overcoats, shined shoes, all in dark hues and we didn’t have name tags.
I confess to the temptation of playing the role, but my companion quickly explained that we weren’t officers of the law but would he like to hear a gospel message? No. He didn’t and turned and moved off as fast as he could. Whatever “it” was, I was a little suspicious that we had the guilty party.