By Ralph Fisher

November 28, 1999

Amsterdam is a wonderful place to shop. The deals one finds in its warren of shops is truly without parallel in Europe. So, it was only natural that Mike Sharp saw a great opportunity to buy a new suit at McGregor.

The shopkeeper was affable, if not a little nitwitted. He laughed and clucked and remarked on this and that as he helped Mike pick out a suit, shirt and tie.

Mike was only interested in the"free fold up bike" that came with the deal. His interest in the suit was one of a means to an end. But the salesman didnít realize this and only wanted to hsow Mike every aspect of the suit and the shirt.

In the end, the problem was the Arab. The Arab loved to gamble and he wanted a nice blue suit he could wear to the famous Amsterdam casino. His salesman was equally funny and dumb.

Both salesmen packaged the respectable suits in black plastic suit cases and sent their customers on their way, only to switch the packages by mistake.

Thank goodness for Mikeís girlfriend. Mike was proud of the bike and showed it to her at length. But she, unlike Mike, wanted to see the suit, not the bike.

Mike reluctantly showed her the suit and even tried it on for her.

"That suit canít be your suit!" She was laughing. The suit was so small on Mike that his arms protruded from the sleeves like a circus organ monkey and the pants would barely encircle his ample waist.

"What color was the suit you bought?" she asked.

"It was gray," answered Mike.

"It looks like you took the wrong suit," she giggled. "Youíd better get down to McGregor and sort this out. Were there any other customers in the shop when you took delivery of the suit?"

Mike suddenly trembled and his knees felt weak. The Arab! Would he think Mike had done this on purpose?

"I sure hope heís not too sore about the mixup," said Mike "and how will we find him?"

Within thirty minutes, Mike found himself in the shop with the clerks. Their faces were long and they looked at each other in stunned disbelief. They immediately started to jabber back and forth in clipped Dutch. In essence, they were desperately wondering who the Arab was and where on earth he could be. "The Arab was here to gamble," one of the clerks finally blurted out in English. "He said he would be gambling tonight at the Amsterdam casino." "Iíll go there and search for him."

"But what about me?" stammered Mike. "Why canít you just give me another suit?"

"Well, you bought the last one" answered the tall clerk named Ronald whoíd sold Mike the missing suit. "Give me your phone number where youíre staying and Iíll go to the casino tonight and search for him."

Mike couldnít believe this turn of events but there was little he could so about it. He dejectedly went back to his friendís house in Amsterdam, oopened a beer and waited. Hours and hours went by. No calls.

Soon it was dark outside. Mikeís girlfriend and hosts were starting to work on his uncase, increasing it by the minute.

"What if the Arab wants to kill you?" said Mikeís host. "These gamblers arenít known for their friendliness."

"But what can we do?" Mike answered. "I donít even know where the casino is."

Just then the phone rang. Mike leaped for it and heard the friendly, if not harried voice of the shop clerk.

"Maneer (Mr.) Sharp, I think we know where the Arab is. We called Saudi Arabia and the credit card company says heís been charging chips every evening at midnight."

"Tonight is a big gambling night because itís Saturday and my colleague says thereís no doubt that heíll show up tonight. "Weíll be there to meet with him. Do you want to come with us?" asked the shopkeeper.

"Well of course", said Mike without thinking.

That evening, the Amsterdam casino was crawling with Arabs. They love to gamble and this fellow looked like every other smiling Arab in the huge gambling hall.

After awhile, Mike spotted the beady-eyed clerks nervously shifting among the crowd. In the tall Dutch clerkís hand was the infamous "McGregor" brand name on the suit bag. This must be the suit that had been returned to the shop that afternoon.

By 1:30 a.m., all was lost, or so it seemed. The clerks couldnít recognize the little Arab and it was late for a shopkeeper to be milling about the rancorous crowd.

Mike too was a bit dejected and he and the two shopkeepers were set to leave when Mike decided to take one more look at the main craps table. A small crowd oohed and asked someone who was on a rollÖMike couldnít see the person creating the stir but he decided to wade through the crowd to look. Just then his eyes made contact with the Arab.

"you," the Arab exclaimed. "You have my suit!" The Arabís pants legs were rolled up and a belt held his loose gray pants on his small waist. The jacket hung on him like a tent. He was funny to look at and Mike didnítí smile. "You have my suit. Youíre wearing it right now!" Mike pointed his finger at the smaller man.

The crowd began to recognize the situation and tilters of laughter arose from around the craps table.

Before anymore could be said, the two clerks ushered the Arab away to a nearby restroom for him to put on his own suit. They even had a complimentary shirt and tie.

When the Arab realized everyone just wanted his property restored to him, he smiled and shook Mikeís hand. "Donít worry, Iím really happy your suit brought me such good luck."