Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hitching A Ride

I picked up the middle kid from school this afternoon. Thursday is honors band day. He wanted to play the tuba, because it's the biggest, but the music teacher sized him up, a kid who consistently places in the lowest height quartile for his age, and said, "No." He settled for the euphonium instead.

He hates to take the activities bus home. It follows a meandering and somewhat incomprehensible route to our neighborhood and wastes forty-five minutes that could be spent playing basketball or watching television. I can sympathize. Too much time with my own thoughts puts me close to the edge.

So he called me and because I was working at home this afternoon I went to get him. While I was on the way, he called to ask if I could give his friend S. a ride home too. Why not? It takes a village and all that.

After they got in the car, I remembered my kid needed to buy a new jacket. The previous new jacket, the one that was big enough to last him another year and then last his younger brother another two years, that got misplaced last week. In a casino or on a beach. Don't ask.

"Do you mind going to the store with us?" I asked his friend.

"No, that's cool," said S. His parents are divorced and he likes hanging out with his friends' fathers. He's a little twitchy but he's a good kid. He once told a basketball referee the ref must have miscounted because he was pretty sure he'd just fouled out. The ref shook his head and shooed him to the bench.

Anyway, off we went to the store. I'd earlier explained to my son that he would have to pay for a new jacket. I did this by turning red and bug eyed and shrieking, "Do you think I'm made of freaking money?" while everyone nearby pretended to ignore us.

Halfway there the kids started talking about golf. I don't know why someone would talk about golf, but there you have it.

"Do you golf?" my son asked his friend.

"Yeah, I love it."

"How often do you go?"

"Not very often. My mom doesn't golf."

"Does your dad?"

"Yeah, but I don't see him that much."

"We should golf this summer," my son told him. "My dad would take us."

"Really?" asked his friend.

"Wait a second," I interjected. "I'll drive you there but I am not golfing with you."

"That's still cool," said S.

"Whatever," I said.

"That's still cool," he said again.

We arrived at the store. What's wrong with me? Seriously. I immediately veered off and began evaluating vacuum cleaners. We have a perfectly serviceable one at home, even though my oldest one hates it. He wants a Dyson. This is the same boy who asked us to clean the house as a birthday present for him one year. "Sorry, kiddo," we told him. "How about an iPod or a camera instead?"

After finishing with the vacuums I wandered over to the cookware department. Oh, that's what I need, another ceramic baking dish, in case the two I already own simultaneously explode. It could happen. I grabbed another.

While I was browsing the kids disappeared. The store's not that big, one of those modern semi-department stores that sell mostly clothes, along with other random dry goods. It's big enough I can't see him, though, and meanwhile my oldest had called and was demanding his own ride home, tennis practice having been canceled because the coach finally realized we live in a hellhole where the weather always sucks.

Thank God for cell phones. I called my middle kid and asked where he was.

"Looking for jackets, pops," he said.

"Hello pops," his friend yelled in the background.

"Damnit, get back here, we have to go," I told him. "I'm in housewares." Talk about things I never thought I'd say.

They returned and after a quick circuit of the store to make sure there weren't any jackets tucked away behind the swimsuits and polo shirts, we reached the cashier. By reaching the cashier I mean we got in line behind Methuselah and his wife, both of whom were apparently trying to barter some of their medication for a price reduction on the designer insulin sacks they were purchasing. I closed my eyes and practiced a favorite yoga pose of mine, The Crazy Bastard Has An Aneurysm.

Of course the boys escaped again. Next thing I know S. scooted by in one of the complimentary wheelchairs the store provides. My son watched him nervously.

"S.," I whispered as he rode by. "Please put that away."

He stared at me without comprehension. The other shoppers stared at me too.

"Now would be fine," I said. My kid backed away. He knew how this could end. I smiled apologetically at the other shoppers. "Sorry, he's not mine. I have to pretend to be nice."

S. scooted by the other way. The cashier stopped ringing up sales to watch.

"Hey buddy, put the wheelchair away. Now."

He smiled at me.

"Now," I repeated, giving him the death glare I normally reserve for my own children. He might not deal with a father every day but he's not stupid. He put it away.

I finally paid and we walked to the car. I clutched my new baking dish and tried to avoid eye contact with any of the other people who'd been standing in line with us.

"Hey, Mr. Snag," said my son's friend.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said, smiling as he got in the backseat.

"You're both pinheads," I said looking at them in the rear view mirror.

"Thanks for the ride," said S.

"Whatever," I said.

"Thanks for the ride," he said again.

"You're welcome," I said. "Anytime."


fish said...

So you have received the same yoga training I have.

Jennifer said...

turning red and bug eyed and shrieking

I'm familiar with that tactic. Of course I NEVER use it... only Grizzled. :)

Mendacious D said...

Next year for band, sign the kid of for contrabass saxophone.

As a bonus, you'll probably scare away any rodents in the vicinity.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Honors band? Gawd. American schools are so messed up these days.

I say you take the kid golfing and show him what it's like to be a man. Otherwise, just show him UC's bar mitzvah pics. Either way, he'll get the message.

Kathleen said...

This is the same boy who asked us to clean the house as a birthday present for him one year.

that is the saddest/most hilarious birthday present since I asked for Quiche Lorraine for my birthday party.

Anonymous said...

S. will remember you, Snag. It's a good thing.

Great post.

Righteous Bubba said...

Next year for band, sign the kid of for contrabass saxophone.

He could be another Anthony Braxton.

Ahem. The euphonium is a fine instrument too.

Anonymous said...

note to self: send kids to uncle snag in order to ensure a healthy dose of surrealism