So here we are settling in for lunch at a place in a strip mall. We sit down, all four of us, when our oldest daughter gets my wife’s attention. She points with her eyes to a location on the floor behind where a group of older teenagers are huddled around a table grazing on Americanized Mexican food. It was a twenty dollar bill. My wife picks it up. No one notices.
“Where did that come from?” I ask
“Next to that kid’s chair.” she replies, in a hushed voice. “Agatha noticed it.”
“Well, we have to ask if they lost it.” I say
“Excuse me,” I shout to the backs of the teenagers. I’m a full-grown man. I can shout to teenagers to get their attention and damn well know it. Teenagers know it too. A tall boy with no facial hair turns to us. “Did you lose some money?” I ask him. He looks at the girl next to him, who shrugs as if to say no. Meanwhile my wife crumples the bill in her fist so they can’t identify the denomination. The boy shakes his head, “No” and turns back to his lunch.
My wife smiles. My oldest daughter smiles. I’m not satisfied. “Are you sure?” I shout over to the boy again. “Because my wife just found twenty dollars on the floor behind you.” My wife gives me that “Dumbass!” look. The boy stands up and starts patting his pants. The girl next to him then asks him if he still had the twenty dollars she gave him earlier. He doesn’t. He says he lost the money.
My wife hands it to him, reluctantly. He mumbles thanks, then hands the bill to the girl next to him.
My wife then turns to me with a red face, “Of *course* they’re going to say they lost it when you tell them the amount.”
Now at this point in the story, you have to understand that we’re raising two children. A big part of raising children is to make sure they understand the difference between right and wrong. Fact – that money was *not* ours. We didn’t lose it by handing it back to people who said they were the owners. We did the right thing – even if the teenagers didn’t. Who’s to know whether it was really theirs? Who’s to judge them? Not us.
So we turn back to our lunch and get over the opportunity to be twenty dollars richer. Only, I kept my eyes on the teens. At one point one of the girls at the table, the fat one with the curly hair, stared at me with a smirk while the girl next to her (not as fat) rolled a twenty dollar bill over in her fingers – smelling it. At that point, I was pretty sure they were lying. Still, the only other option was to confront them directly and play Perry Mason in front of everyone in the restaurant. And because I’m a man, I could have. And I would have probably gotten it back too. But I’m a dad. I did the right thing. We did the right thing. Whether those punk teenagers did or not.
We end our lunch and leave. Though I’m pretty sure those teenagers ended up in a ditch that night after spending the twenty bucks on a bottle of booze, plus the buyer’s fee, and then taking Daddy’s Lexus for a spin.
Because that’s how things work.
3 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Feb 16, 2010
You’re a good man, Jim Mitchem. And a fine writer, to boot.
Feb 16, 2010
— well put. i don’t have kids, but you’re dead on the money with this: ” big part of raising children is to make sure they understand the difference between right and wrong.”
Feb 16, 2010
Not only will your girls remember that, those teenagers will too. I can be optimistic like that, ’cause I was quite the punk kid.