"Big Mike" Simpson--the kind of man who can wear a one-carat diamond ring on his pinky finger and not get any static about it--was getting kind of bored Friday morning as he waited for a friend in the parking lot on Warner Avenue near Magnolia Street.
To pass the time, the 6-foot, 300-pound chauffeur decided to feed some birds the stale pretzels he found in the trunk of his stretch limousine.
"I was crunching the pretzels and slinging them with my right hand," he said. "Then, all of a sudden, (the ring) slid off."
To Simpson's alarm, a sea gull snatched it up.
"I started screaming all kinds of things at that bird," he said. "I started throwing pretzels at it to try to get him to drop the ring and eat the pretzels."
The sea gull didn't bite. Instead, it flew skyward with the ring, eventually landing on a 25-foot light pole. As Simpson watched in agony, the bird dropped the ring on a small flat spot atop the pole and flew off.
First, the 52-year-old Huntington Beach resident tried shaking the light pole. No good.
Then, he thought about asking some kids to shinny up to get the ring. He decided they might run off with the jewelry.
"I was planning to camp underneath the lamppost all night, hoping it would rain hard enough and wash the ring down," he said.
Fortunately for Simpson, some Fountain Valley firefighters happened to be across the street, and Simpson persuaded them to radio in for a hook-and-ladder truck.
Firefighter Jeff Shockey said that when he got the call, he thought it was a joke.
But a few minutes later, with the ladder in place, Shockey retrieved the ring.
"I was thinking how was I going to explain this to my wife," Simpson said later, adding that his wife, Karen, had given him the ring as an anniversary gift 18 years ago.