We have a relative on my dad’s side that went to the ‘big house’ for stealing nurse’s purses. That’s how my mom would bring it up to my dad when denigrating his side of the family, “Well, your half-brother went away for stealing nurse’s purses.” No one mentioned the rhythm in that phrase ever. That’s fascinating to me.
I first noticed a stealing tendency in T. while waiting in an exam room at the doctor’s. I let him take everything out of his backpack to kill time before the doctor came in. Out came diapers, a package of wipes, a stray mitten, loose Goldfish crackers, a sumo wrestler doll, an empty Woody (from Toy Story) Pez dispenser, a marker, crumpled paper, a note I had missed from one of his teachers at school – “he really likes chicken fingers!”, two hats and a laminated photo of one of his classmates.
I immediately recognized the little girl in the photo. She wasn’t just a classmate, T. also has play dates with she and her brother. And – it wasn’t just any photo it was her photo that had been affixed to her cubby at school with Velcro. When I asked, “Did, you take this?” he smiled and grabbed it putting it back in the bag. Later, I re-affixed the photo – without telling anyone – to her cubby. The following week I pulled one of his hats out of the bag and her picture was attached. Busted.
At another doctor’s appointment he stuffed about a thousand Viagra brochures in to his bag while I read Elle magazine. I wished it hadn’t been such a highbrow joint so I could have scored a People magazine and I wished I had discovered his haul before going home. I didn’t bring the brochures back on our return visit probably giving false hope to some drug rep. When I confronted him with them he pretended he didn’t know anything about it gesturing with arms outstretched and a shrug – “Beats me, ma.”
His most recent caper involves lifting the master key to 25 offices in the building I work. The story starts like a typical day for us, I was late for a meeting at work and had T. in tow because I missed my window to get him to school because we had two doctor appointments that morning – Ok, folks, we had over 35 doctor visits in five months – so my friend Patti watched him at her desk during the meeting. Patty’s kids are fully grown adults she can no longer coax them on to her lap for 20 minutes at a stretch so she looks forward to these visits. At least she says she does.
The next day Patty asked me if I borrowed the master key that resides on a shelf across from her desk. Fair question, I have locked myself out of my office several times and even once with T. in it. A tip – if you ask the 3 year old to open the locked door from the other side they will just laugh at you. Pleading and threatening only causes more laughing. Show some dignity and get the master key or call the fire department.
Anyhoo, I didn’t have the key. The key by the way is attached to a wooden 6-inch red and white miniature-bowling pin by about 2 feet of beaded chain. Patty is beside herself, “I am responsible for that key and they are going to have to replace the locks on all those doors!” I was like, “That would be a bummer, Patty” and don’t let the door hit you on the way out cause I have a lot of work to do.
I was about that sympathetic. This looking for the master key went on for days. Patty became more frantic in her search. She had talked to scores of tenants. She was getting pressure from the landlord. By day three she looked haggard. Finally, Patty came in to my office and closed the door. She said, “Listen, I want you to check T.’s backpack for that key.” I looked up from my desk, “You do?” I said, nodding my head and smiling. Smiling the smile the mother of a thief smiles. Patti said, “Yes, I do. He took that girl’s photo and all those Viagra brochures! I just bet he took that key!”
I knew she was right! I knew it. It was probably irresistible to him. He couldn’t help himself. Good grief, with all these doctors’ appointments ‘nurse’s purses’ was just around the corner. Patty said, “He has a real problem.” Sure, she was laughing or was she?
Patty reminded me twice before I left that day to look in his bag, as did the landlord’s wife. I also promised to call either way later that day.
The first thing I did when I got to the school was look in his bag. There at the bottom of the backpack partially wrapped in a dirty Star Wars t-shirt was the master key. I decided to confront him unexpectedly with the evidence. My opportunity came on the drive home at a red light where we were about 30 car lengths back. I would have all the time in the world and he wouldn’t have anywhere to go.
I reached in and pulled out the master key turning in my seats and said, “Look familiar to you, punk?” First, the recognition in his eyes and then he made the double thumbs up sign, legs kicking and laughed manically. Wise guy, uh? “Hey, you got your friend Patty in trouble with this one.” Then more laughing – I would call it belly laughing. Then nothing but a contented sigh as he turned to stare out the window.
When we got home, while he was in the other room I put the master key on a table out of his reach and eye line. The next day it was gone. I had already called the office and said I would be returning it. The landlord’s wife said, “I am going to think this is funny because I have four kids, well, actually, I had four and they are grown up now and one’s a lawyer so I don’t know if you might want her number at some point.” She didn’t really say the italics part but it’s funny.
Where could Baby-faced Nelson have put it! It was useless to ask him. I knew I couldn’t break him. I had to think like him. “Ok, I’m criminal and I am on the short side where would I put a valued possession?” “Backpack? No, too easy.” “Play kitchen?” Under the removable sink? Bingo!
I didn’t say a word. I played it cool as a cucumber. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.