Thursday, January 27, 2011

Criminal Behavior

I suppose it could have been worse. The fuzz could have hauled me down to the pokey. They could have treated me like a guilty perp and put me away for good in the crowbar hotel.

As it was, I stood before the husband and the teenager and the boy. Their glaring and accusing eyes penetrated my vulnerable and, I swear, innocent self.

I couldn't take their disapproval. I bleated out, “Come on! This isn’t my fault!”

The prosecutor husband walked a circle around me, his hands clasped behind his back before he asked his questions. “Did you or did you not flee the Sears store with a Lands' End wool coat that had the store security device still attached to it? And did you or did you not somehow manage to evade all security officers, all cameras and all beeping door machines when you fled the scene with said coat?”

Again, I bleated out, “Yes I did. But…”

The husband continued, “You claim to have paid for this coat that still has the security device attached. How, may I ask, did you pay for the coat?”

I lowered my head in shame. “With a stolen credit card.”

The teenager and boy jury quickly drew in a breath and shook their heads at each other.

The husband was not done. “And now you want to go back into that same store and have them remove the security device so you can wear your coat out in public. And your only proof that you didn’t steal the coat in the first place or just grab one off the rack, is your receipt that shows you “purchased” the coat with a stolen credit card?”

I muttered a quiet, “Yes.”

The teenager yelled out, “You’re so screwed, mom. They're never going to believe that story.” The boy added, “Please don’t make us go back to Sears with her, dad. I don’t want to be a criminal too!”

I don’t know why the security device was never removed from my new coat. I don’t have any idea how I was able to walk out of the store with it. But I did. And I was not at all happy when I put my coat on the next day and found the security device still attached. The teenager informed me I couldn’t wear the coat out in public like that. It would embarrass her. “What if someone SEES you?”

A few days later I was checking the credit card charges online and found two that I had not charged. The credit card company said my “information had been compromised” and they would have to cancel my card. “If anyone tries to use your card information, ma’am, the vendor will be notified that this card has been stolen.” Of course, this was the card I had used to purchase my coat.

I forced the entire family to accompany me back to the Sears store. They made me enter first. If the beeping machines went off when I walked through, they assured me they were going to run back to the car and leave me there to fend for myself.

There was no beep.

I walked up to the register. The family lurked many feet away in the women’s leisurewear section. They offered no support. I handed the cashier my coat and told her my problem. She asked for my receipt. As I handed it to her, I heard the boy blurt out, “This is it. She’s going down!”

The cashier punched a bunch of buttons on her register. She paused and said, “Hmmmm. There seems to be a problem.”

I paused and consciously forced myself not to pee my pants. I eked out a nervous smile and said, “Problem…?”

Time came to a standstill as I waited for her to explain.

Finally she said, “Oh, it’s just this register. It’s taking forever for things to go through today.”

And then she removed the security device and handed me back my coat. “I’m so sorry you had to make the trip back to have that device removed. I’m sure it was an inconvenience. So, I’ve given you a 10% credit that I put back on your credit card for you. You make sure to have a nice day now!”

As I walked out of the store, the family who was now willing to be seen with me, started talking. The boy asked, “So, you’re not a criminal any more mom?” The teenager said I was now allowed to wear my coat in public. And the husband bragged, “Wow! She even gave you money back! That’s great. I told you it would all work out just fine.”

Check This Out!

I recently watched the documentary Young@Heart. I laughed, I cried and I cheered as I watched the elderly ensemble prepare for a concert in which they sing covers of rock songs. It's well worth a look. And I dare you not to tear up during the prison scene. Check out the official trailer here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Lunchbox

I smelled it before I touched it. Yet still, I touched it. Because that’s what mothers do.

The boy was quite adept at taking a lunch box to school and failing to bring one home. And I was no stranger to washing and bleaching that same funky smelling lunch box when it miraculously reappeared on the kitchen counter a few days later. Neither of us however, was prepared to handle the lunch box that went missing in the middle of December. When it miraculously reappeared after the holiday break, in the second week of January, it had transformed into its own living and breathing being.

When I picked the boy up from school, he was holding the lunch box by his pinkie finger, his arm outstretched as far as he could manage. His other hand was covering his nose. “Here mom, I found my lunch box!”

The acrid stench was immediately overwhelming. As the boy and I walked home from his school a green cloud of poison accompanied us. The other mommies steered their children away from us. Small dogs growled at us and backed off in fear. Flocks of birds left the trees, deciding to fly south after all. For the first time, the scary teenage boys in the neighborhood looked a little bit scared of me. I’m pretty sure if I had put the lunch box down on the ground it could have walked home itself.

Let me be very clear. I was a pro at handling foul smelling lunch boxes. But this was more than even I could handle. I coughed, gagged and made an embarrassing spectacle of myself. In terms of first world, suburban mother hardships, I had hit the jackpot. This was truly a terrible thing for me to be going through.

I knew the lunch box was done for. There was no other way. Even if I managed to clean that noxious, certainly harmful, container without choking on my own lung, I would never truly feel comfortable giving it to the boy again. No good mother would take that chance.

I quickly abandoned the lunchbox on the front porch. When the husband came home I would force him to acquire a hazmat suit and dispose of the lunchbox in a manner that would ensure that I would never encounter it again.

When the husband walked into the house an hour later he announced to the family, “Hey! The boy dropped his lunchbox on the porch. I brought it in for him!”

The husband seemed unfazed as he put that awful lunchbox on the clean kitchen countertop. There was no gagging spectacle. There was no hardship. There was no terrible experience.

In shock, I made sure the husband knew exactly how I felt about that lunchbox.

The boy nodded in agreement as he played his video game, “Yeah, Dad. You’d better huck the thing. Mom thinks we’re all going to die.”

The husband grinned just enough to offend me and said, “I don’t smell a thing.”

That grinning husband then proceeded to unload the contents of that vile lunchbox onto the clean countertop. He unloaded the just-about-to-burst-pressurized-full-of-green-foam-Rubbermaid-juice-box. He unloaded that nice thermos container that oozed the leftover casserole the boy had taken to school so many weeks earlier. He unloaded the plastic baggies full of now unrecognizable scraps and crumbs. The husband then took one last look inside the lunchbox and sniffed a big sniff.

“Wow! Look at those colors inside there. And yeah…I suppose it might smell a little bit.”

I insisted the husband throw the entire lunchbox out. He said it wasn’t that bad and accused me of being wasteful. I told him it was not safe for the children. He said that a modern dishwasher could sanitize anything. I told him I didn’t care and that the whole thing grossed me out. He told me that I would never survive in the slums of India. I told him that he was probably right about that one.

When the garbage men took our garbage away the next morning they took with them that dreadful lunchbox. The husband eventually put it in the trash, but only when he realized he really would have to clean it himself. The boy promised to bring home his lunchbox in a timely manner. I cleaned the countertops more times than necessary. I opened the windows in the house to air out that awful smell I was still smelling. I added “buy new lunchbox” to my “to do” list. And then I sat down and Googled “slums of India smells”.

I mean really, how bad could it be?

Check This Out!

Far from the slums of India comes the somewhat humorous, often varied Argentinian band, Pario la Choco. A little bit reggae mixed with a little bit of everything else, Pario la Choco is a nice change of pace from what you are listening to right now. Many of their songs feature brass more than this one does. If you like that sort of thing, as I do, look up some of their other songs too.