It was a deceptively sunny morning in Lower Manhattan, and I sat at my desk with my feet up. I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt I found at this little vintage joint in Brooklyn and a pair of sunglasses I bought off a dame on Wall Street for seven bucks.
I would’ve been smoking a cigarette and light would’ve been filtered through the slats in the blinds, but we’re not allowed to smoke in the Vox Media building, and the blinds don’t have slats.
Let me back up: I’m a journalist by trade but a detective by mindset. My official title is staff writer at SB Nation, but I moonlight as a private investigator, especially on days when I accidentally dress like Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I.
I accidentally dressed exactly like Magnum PI today pic.twitter.com/N1vHUW3PAO— Charlotte Wilder (@TheWilderThings) November 3, 2017
This morning was slow; not too many cases rolling in across my docket. I was browsing the web, looking for sports mysteries to solve or cases I could investigate (I’d already tackled, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?”) when suddenly there was a cry from the other side of the room.
I took my feet off the desk and whipped around to see my co-worker Jessica Smetana pointing at the television that hangs near her desk. Our sports station is near the desks of Recode editors and reporters, so CNBC is on all day next to the sports shows that rotate on the three TVs near it.
“Gronk is on CNBC,” Smetana said.
I took a drag of my nonexistent cigarette and peered out the window. If the Patriots tight end was really a few football fields from me, I knew I’d have to go try to find him to figure out why on earth he was on CNBC.
“That means he’s gotta be around here somewhere, eh?” I asked, in my best old-timey detective voice.
“Yeah,” Smetana said. “They film right near our office on Wall Street.”
“Where on Wall Street?” I asked, flicking imaginary ash onto the carpet.
“In the Stock Exchange building,” Smetana said.
“Hmm,” I mused, stamping out my ghost Parliament. “Sounds like a case for: WILDER, SPORTS INVESTIGATOR.”
Smetana was ignoring me by this point, so I put on my coat, tossed on my aviators, and strode confidently out of the office.
“I’m going to find Gronk!” I proclaimed. No one looked up.
Out on the street, it was mayhem. Noon on Wall Street isn’t a good time to be going anywhere, let alone on a mission in a hurry. Men in identical, light-blue shirts and pleated khakis clogged the cobblestone sidewalks like a bunch of Excel spreadsheets that grew legs. I wove through their combed-over pack in my Hawaiian shirt, sticking out like a running back on a baseball field.
Construction on the sidewalk didn’t help matters. I knew I had a limited amount of time to find Gronk before he left the Stock Exchange, so I hopped a barrier in the work zone. A man in an orange vest yelled at me and asked what I thought I was doing, but I didn’t have time to explain to him that I was trying to find Gronk, so instead I just started running. I got caught up in a maze of confusing fences but freed myself in time to see a group of suits taking a photo in front of the building. My heart raced, but as I got closer, I realized none of them were Gronk.
I made a beeline for the entrance, but a security guard stopped me as I tried to slither through.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m a private investigator with SB Nation and I’m trying to find Gronk,” I said.
“Hmm,” he said, sizing me up. “OK.”
He let me through. I made my way to the desk at the entrance of the building, where another security guard asked what I was doing there. He looked at my shirt then looked back at me.
“I’m with SB Nation,” I said. “I’m supposed to be with Gronk.”
That wasn’t true, but he didn’t need to know that.
“OK,” he said. “Let me see your ID.”
I pulled out my driver’s license, wishing I had a badge to prove how much of a legit private investigator I am. I did my best to look tough and important. He shuffled through some papers.
“I’ll call inside,” he said, “because you’re not on the list.”
He picked up the phone as I stood there, barely breathing, so close to solving my mystery.
“I have a young lady here who says she’s supposed to be with Gronk,” he said into the phone. “Oh, they left? All right, thanks.”
He hung up and looked at me, sorry as a sad sap in a rainstorm without an umbrella.
“They left,” he said. “About 10 minutes ago.”
“That’s all right,” I told him. “You can’t win ‘em all.”
I went back to the office. No one seemed particularly interested when I told them that I couldn’t find Gronk, but they did tell me that hopping fences near the Stock Exchange isn’t, like, the greatest idea.
I’m telling you this story because I think it’s important to shed light on the fact that even professional private investigators like myself can’t crack every case. We’re all only human. Sometimes, it’s not possible to track down Gronk when he’s on CNBC. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop trying. Keep hopping fences and accidentally dressing like Tom Selleck, and someday you’ll get where you want to go.
At least that’s what I tell myself to sleep at night.