The Chevy Chase

David Allan
9 min readFeb 18, 2024

Stolen cash from the sale of sugar and ice
leads to an action scene à la “Miami Vice.”

“Everybody stay where they are! I’m making a citizen’s arrest!” my first boss, a furniture upholsterer named Arnold Begleiter, announced to the stunned patrons of a Dunkin’ Donuts one Sunday afternoon. I ran in just behind him, Robin to his Batman.

The young man we were pursuing was literally cowering at the last stool on the far end of the diner, doing a poor job of hiding in plain sight. My boss walked back there, said something to him and led him out.

“The police are on their way,” Mr. Begleiter¹ said to the man in the paper sailor’s cap who was serving coffee and crullers behind the counter.

 ¹ In pen pal letters to a schoolgirl 
As I always called him to his face.
Sometimes, not to his face, I
disrespectfully called him “Leg

“They are?” I asked myself.

A couple of years earlier, I sat on the very stool where our criminal was cornered. My mom was driving me home from an after-school event, and we were trying to decide where to get dinner.

“Dunkin’ Donuts,” I said cheekily, seeing the illuminated orange, magenta and brown sign a block ahead of us. A lighthouse at the edge of a strip mall parking lot.

I’d never even seen my mom eat a donut, so my suggestion was just a goof.

“OK,” she said, calling my bluff. And to my bewilderment, we pulled into the parking lot, went in and sat at the last two stools at the counter. My mom scrutinized the menu until she found something suitable: soup.

We had dinner at Dunkin’ Donuts. Ours were the only spoons clanking though. The soup had likely been sitting in the pot, heated but otherwise untouched, for days. And when we’d finished our bowls, my mother asked for the check.

“But can I have a donut?” I asked, assuming dessert was built into the establishment’s raison d’être. At the time, a Dunkin’ Donuts’ menu offerings were 99% pastries, 1% soup. “No,” she said matter-of-factly, explaining that it was very late and donuts are terribly unhealthy. As if I had thought otherwise.

I solved this donut access problem later by earning my own dough, so to speak, with my first job at a snoball¹ stand. That job preceded directly from getting hit by a car while riding my bike.

¹ In Baltimore, for whatever reason, 
snow cones are called “snoballs.”

I was commuting from school on my rad Orioles-hued Team Murray BMX. I tried to zip past the entrance of a small parking lot that ran alongside an upholstery shop and snoball stand. I knew the place. Its plywood exterior was hand-painted colorfully with its name: Snoball King. It was roughly the size of three port-o-potties and sold some kosher flavors, too. I was a patron on the rare occasion I had money in my pocket.

The driver who hit me coming out of that parking lot — a retired principal who had spent his career caring for young children — didn’t see me coming. I was a blur of orange and black. He slammed on the brakes at the very moment his front tire rolled over my front tire. I was trapped under my bike, under his car, when he jumped out to see the damage.

He looked frightened. And despite the pain of my foot stuck under my pedal crank, I calmly but urgently instructed him to back the hell up.

I was dismayed to see that my tire had taken on the shape of a large bowl. And my foot hurt a lot. But I was buoyed by another sight: Mrs. Begleiter.

I didn’t know she was Mrs. Begleiter at the time. I didn’t even know who Mr. Begleiter was. She was just a beautiful and kind angel who appeared out of nowhere to help. She resembled ‘80s-era Jacqueline Bisset: tall, thin, tan and her hair up in a messy bun. She rushed over to help me.

She took my arm and helped me onto the driver’s seat of the principal’s car. While he worriedly looked on, Mrs. Begleiter smiled and gently removed my shoe and examined my foot. I just watched her, and prurient stirrings formed that would supply my earliest masturbatory fantasies in the months to come, so to speak.

When Mrs. Begleiter mentioned that her husband owned the upholstery shop next door, I asked if he also owned Snoball King. She said he did. I was sitting before snoball royalty. I asked if they needed help that summer, but she didn’t know and said I should come back another day and ask her husband.

She cradled my foot, frowned at my bike and said, “How are we going to get you home?” I was hoping she would take me, but my nervous assailant volunteered instead. I thanked her.

On the way home, the nice retired principal asked if he could talk to my parents (“No,” I explained, my mom wasn’t home yet), and offered to give me money for my bike (“No, the accident was my fault,” I answered honestly).

A few months later, my foot feeling better and a new tire obtained, I went back to Begleiter’s upholstery shop and asked to meet the snoball king himself.

He resembled ‘80s-era Chevy Chase, wearing golf shirts, smoking a cigar and always smiling. He kept a wad of money in his pocket. He drove a green Porsche 914. He had a smokin’ hot wife. No wonder he was always happy. Think “Fletch,” and you’re mostly there. He was the coolest person I met up to that point.

He came out of the back of the shop in a puff of cigar smoke, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, his teeth visible through the cloud.

I told him about the car accident and how I’d talked to his wife about working at the snoball stand. He shook my hand and invited me outside to sit on his front porch and “talk business.” He lived above the shop. His wife must be inside, I thought, excitedly.

Once seated, he asked me how old I was, and I answered honestly.

“Twelve is too young for a summer job,” he said. (Actually, you had to be 14 years old to get a work permit, even for a part-time job, in Maryland.)

“But I’ll be 13 by the start of summer,” I lied.

“OK, we’ll try you out,” he said, extending his hand again for me to shake on it. He was grinning like there was something funny about the whole exchange. “Come back in a couple of months, and I’ll get you on the schedule.” And then he got serious for a moment. “I pay $2 an hour, all right?” The minimum wage was $3.50 at the time.

“Yes! Thank you, Mr. Begleiter.” He never told me to call him anything else. And he didn’t ask if I had any qualifications, because he knew I didn’t.

I only told my mom about the job afterward. She agreed to let me take it, provided I put half of my earnings away for college, a sum that would total, after three summers, enough to buy just the books for my first semester courses.

I loved that job. Friends visited me. I made up a flavor combination for a girl I liked¹ and put it on the menu sign. On many shifts, I made myself sick eating too many snoballs, watched shows on the small black and white TV under the counter, and paused both eating and watching to serve customers, who I enjoyed talking to.

¹ “The Gina” was a combination of 
egg custard, banana and strawberry.
“It's too sweet” was the real
Gina's review. “Like you,” was my
smooth reply.
She held my hand a couple of
times and kissed me on the cheek at
a birthday party, but that’s all I
earned for my culinary flirting.

On one Sunday afternoon during my second summer there, as I was pumping the plastic syrup dispenser atop a gallon of Day-Glo sugar water that stained my fingers, I heard a rustling noise. I turned to see that a young man was halfway through the open front window. His hand was already on the cigar box below the counter that held the day’s profit so far.

We made brief eye contact, and he was gone. I jumped out, saw which direction he was headed and ran into the upholstery shop, shouting for Mr. Begleiter.

He sprang into action, calling to his wife, who was sunbathing in the backyard, telling her to watch the stand and call the police. He gestured for me to get into his Porsche, and Mrs. Begleiter came outside, wearing a silk robe over her bathing suit and holding a portable phone with an antenna sticking out of the top. As he slipped into the car, he instructed his wife to tell the police we were driving west on Reisterstown Road.

It was the only time I rode in his car. He was all business. “You can identify him, right?” Yes. “How much money you think was in the box?” $40 maybe. He weaved his Batmobile in and out of traffic, pointing to people and asking me if that was our guy. I was so excited.

If I’d just stolen money from a snoball stand, I would get off the main road, but I spotted the guy after several minutes. And he was heading into the Dunkin’ Donuts, where willpower normally goes to die (unless you’re my mother).

We screeched to a stop at the front entrance, diagonally across two parking spots, and hopped out. “What happens next?” I wondered, but only for a moment, because after we went inside and he declared a citizen’s arrest, Mr. Begleiter grabbed the guy by the arm and marched him out the front door just as the police arrived.

I was shocked that it worked. The cops cuffed him, handed the money over to my boss and put the thief in the back of their car.

I avoided looking at the man who robbed me and watched Mr. Begleiter instead. He reached into his glove compartment, removed a cigar and leaned against the Porsche while we gave our statements. He was grinning and smoking the whole time, looking like George Peppard at the end of every episode of “The A-Team.”

The takeaway
Happiness is a lovely spouse and all the snoballs you can eat.

Unanswered question
Is citizen’s arrest a real legal thing?

And now a word from Arnold Begleiter…
“It was pretty accurate, your story. You saw him going in, then I parked, I went inside, I said, ‘You guys come with me,’ and the police arrested him. I have no idea what happened to him. I didn’t follow up in any way.

A friend of mine built a stand and he asked me if I wanted to invest $700 and partner with him. We went to parties together. He was always looking to nail these broads. I was single then. It was my pleasure. Ha ha!

(Snoball King) ended when I realized my summers were completely gone. I couldn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t worth it for $5,000 — that’s all it made in the summer. I let this guy take over for a couple of summers and that was it. We shut it down.

My favorite flavor? Chocolate was my best. I loved that. And strawberry. I liked the red ones.

I’m 77 now. I look like I’m in my 30s. Ha ha!

My wife’s name? It’s really hard to remember and pronounce: Mary. Ha ha! I’m still with her today. She’s right here, on the phone. She’s 74 years old.

I appreciate what you said about how beautiful she was. You were 12, 13 years old; if you didn’t have a crush on her, I don’t know who else you would have.”

Related dream:
September 24, 2019
Our house in Decatur, Georgia

Back to the Future

In either a future dystopian reality, or the Middle East, I found myself in an old, worn-down medina-like town, looking for people that might be there. I asked a stranger if they knew an upholster named Begleiter. I couldn’t recall the first name of my old Snoball King boss for a moment until it came to me: “Arnold! Arnold Begleiter!”

The stranger led me through a series of corridors into a small, hot, steaming laundry room. In there stood my old boss, looking more like Alfred Molina [than Chevy Chase], with all kinds of random objects in his hair being used as curlers. He seemed pleased to see me yet clearly didn’t remember me. We went for a walk on the roof of the building, and I reminded him.

Later I found another person I knew, the actor Gerard McSorley, my neighbor in Dublin. He was a scary figure [unlike real life], abusing other people. One man insulted him or his girlfriend, and he took the man’s clarinet and broke it over his face. Then he used a jagged edge of the broken instrument to cut off all, or part, of the man’s ear. So, I didn’t introduce myself to him.

With my cousin Petey’s dog. Our Opel in background.



David Allan

CNN’s Executive Editor of Enterprise and Features (Travel, Style, Wellness, Science). This account represents my personal views, not CNN’s.