Here’s the question of the day: Who purposefully leaves their wallet at home when going shopping at a mall — with teenage girls no less?
I mean seriously, why would anyone do that?
Imagine a parent saying: Come on kids! Let’s spend half a day at the mall fighting over all the things you want versus all the things the list says you need for your summer bike trips. What’s more, let’s try to get all the merchandise for free!
“Hey, tell you what,” I’d half whisper to the teenage cashier. “I’m in marketing and PR. You’re in charge of the cash register. How about I write a speech for your upcoming election or organize a fly fishing fundraiser gala for you and 500 of your major donors in exchange for you giving me all this bike trip stuff for free. Whadya think?”
What really happened is I realized my mistake at the cashier counter and asked them to hold the bags until we returned in about 45 minutes to pay for everything.
It didn’t occur to me that we literally had no money to exit the parking garage– not even loose change– until we got to the meter thing with the long arm that lifts when you pay.
I figured this kind of thing must happen a lot. Someone’s credit card gets declined. The machine rejects your dollar bills. You accidentally left your wallet at home. What does the bumper sticker say, Shit Happens?
But to threaten arrest? Give me a break Mr. Mall Cop.
Here’s how it went down.
I pushed the button for assistance.
Nothing. No little voice came out of the machine saying, “How may I help you?” Not even a “Yo. What up?”
“Hello, is there anyone in there?” I asked the box politely, ready to explain the situation.
Still, no reply.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
I was not laying on the assistance button, mind you. I gave it fair time to respond– at least a few minutes in between rings. I am not normally so Gandhi, but had a feeling the more I pushed the button, the longer the guy would take his sweet time to respond. I pictured him sitting there all passive aggressive in half monitoring the video surveillance screens while munching on chips and posting on Facebook until he saw a live one! A catch of the day! A trapped suburban Mom! Then he’d watch and make her wait until he was good and ready to come out.
A few more rings and a phone call later, he appeared at my car window dressed in a crisp white shirt, perfectly creased blue pants and a baseball cap that read, MALL SECURITY.
He was the real deal, walkie talkie and all.
And I was apparently in real trouble.
He said it was either find a way to pay the $3 toll or bust.
“We take theft of services very seriously,” he said, staring me straight in the eyes.
“But I didn’t steal anything,” I pleaded, explaining the wallet situation.
He then radioed into command central, telling the guy, “Some lady claims to have left her wallet at home.” His hands were a little shaky. His voice was a little high pitched. Perhaps I was his first bust of the year.
“May I speak to him?” I asked, wanting to plea my own case.
“No,” was his one word answer. “You need to come up with a way to pay the toll or procedure is to call the police.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
He suggested I call a friend to bail me out. I told him all my friends have jobs, and even if one were home, I would not impose on someone like that.
Couldn’t he take my driver’s license? Wait! It was in my wallet. How about I leave my Coach bag as collateral. He clearly didn’t know what a Coach bag was. I jokingly said he could handcuff my kids to the parking arm until I returned. Only he didn’t laugh and the kids looked slightly terrified, as if…
“What kind of mother do you think I am?” I turned around to ask the girls.
Everyone can repeat after me: THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD!
A second later, he suddenly became good cop, offering that he concurred with my suggestion that the mall should have a system of accommodation in place for scofflaws like me. Perhaps they could send a bill in the mail like the bridges and tunnels do.
“Yeah, it kinda sucks,” he said. “But if you don’t pay the fee, you will at least be banned from this mall,” he said, “forever.”
I told him we’d take the punishment: I’m not a fan of malls anyway, this one in particular. I didn’t dare ask how he would enforce such a punishment.
By this time, he seemed satisfied that he’d done his job in sufficiently reading us the riot act. With that, he took my name and license plate and told us he’d let it go this time– the theft of services. The criminal act. The law breaking infraction.
About 35 minutes after our release, we returned to the sporting goods store, paid for our gear and left.
As we stuck the new parking ticket into the machine, a funny thing happened. It not only didn’t charge us, but the arm went up, releasing us from the parking lot without payment.
“Do you think this some kind of trick?” I asked my daughter as we pulled out. I mean what are the chances that the system would suddenly malfunction after being guarded like an Israeli border?
This is the kid of stuff that continuously happens to me: Wrongs get righted. Lassie comes home. The sun comes out tomorrow. Either that or Candid Camera is back on the air.