No One Gets Hurt

21 06 2009

Whatever this week has in store, it’s sure to be a bore  compared to last week. I mean, recording, editing, voicing versus RIDING AROUND WITH A REPO MAN? Honestly.

I met him at 9 on Friday morning at the Home Depot parking lot. I’d tried four other companies before his, and none would let me ride around or interview any repo men. Too risky, too many men died, don’t want to draw attention to the business, everyone knows who we are. Finally I found Cash.

I walked up to his Ford F350 truck and peered into the illegal tinted glass. Couldn’t see a thing. He rolled down the window. “Ready to ride?” he asked.  I said yes.

I was nervous. After all, I’d only talked with Cash once on the phone, and I had forgotten to ask his name then. So here was this 275-pound 6 foot 1 man who looks like he could’ve eaten a few small children for breakfast, watching Brudda Iz on a laptop in his truck inviting me to hop in.


So I did. And for two hours, we rode around looking for people’s cars to repossess. One was a 32-year-old single mother near the end of a pregnancy. The other was a man in construction, who had parked his truck in front of a girlfriend’s house (Cash found it and took it anyway).

It was, without exaggerating, the most adrenaline-filled day I’d had in a long time. When he pulled us back up to the Home Depot, I was crestfallen. It was almost an addictive high, sort of how you feel after being on the Space Shot. You want to ride again. And again.

Granted things probably would’ve felt different had we been confronted or, worse, shot at.

But in my car on the way home I found myself thinking, “This…THIS is why I love my job.”


Ignorance is Bliss

15 06 2009

Look, if your marriage sucks, keep it to yourself. I’m telling you now, I won’t want to visit you no matter how good you cook or how empty the calendar is. Because I don’t need to witness any more awkward exchanges between you and your husband. It’s painful enough to watch Jon and Kate Plus 8. Yet I had to see a scaled down version of it this past weekend.

Went to a friend’s house. We’ll call her Amy. Amy and her husband have been married for maybe 7 years (I see your antenna is raised already). She is at home with their two under-5 boys. She feels overwhelmed. One said boy was nagging for his soccer cleats (there was no match being played, but he needed them NOW). She called for her husband, whom we’ll call Remy.

Amy: Will you PLEASE take him?

Remy: What does he want?

Amy: He’s looking for his soccer cleats.

Remy: Well where are they?

Long huff from Amy, and she tells him they’re in the goddamn garage.

Remy exits with the boy, and Amy turns to me and says that he never looks her in the eye when he knows he’s done something wrong.

“Who?” I ask.

Remy, it turns out.

Remy is all “yes, dear” and “of course, honey.” But you can tell that he’s bubbling beneath the surface. He’d slap her with the back of his hand hard if it wouldn’t land him in jail.

Later the ladies were dishing around the kitchen table over cheesecake. I asked Amy where she spends the most time with the family at night watching TV–up where we were, or down in the finished basement, where there was another sofa and TV and loads of toys?

“We don’t spend time anywhere as a family,” she said. “We hardly ever sit together.”

Damn, I thought. It’s not that the concept is so odd. It’s just awkward knowing it. Next time, I wanted to say, don’t tell me. I’d really much rather be in the dark.

Foster Care Nightmare

6 06 2009

Here’s the truth about working from home with kids: it doesn’t work. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or her kids have formed an unhealthy bond with the television set.

I know this because this past week, I tried to meet a deadline while the kids had a week off–you know the one when school has ended but camp hasn’t yet begun? Right, that one.

I thought, no problem. We’ll take little day trips and I’ll work at night after they go to bed. HA!

On Monday we went to the skating rink. Roofie right then (perhaps prematurely) pronounced it the “best summer ever.” On Tuesday we went rollerblading on the greenway, and to the neighborhood swimming pool. The kids were still glowing. Hooray for summer! Ice cream and swimming and frosty glasses of lemonade. This was a honeymoon worth remembering. But as with all honeymoons, it wouldn’t last.

The next day I had to force myself to take them to the library to sign them up for the summer reading program. I wanted to take my laptop along to see if I could sneak some work in. But alas, no. I wasn’t in the mood, or in the zone, or whatever you call work mode. (this is a problem with fluid freelance deadlines, by the way)

By Thursday Juniper was moping around the house complaining about how bored she was. All of her friends were either at their lakehouses or had started camp. Roofie continued to make demands–to go to the swimming pool once more, to make a trip out to the dollar store for a squirting water toy, to have raspberry pancakes for breakfast.

The week was wearing on me. That carefree bounce in my step that I’d had on Monday with the kids had soon given way to a shuffle. Soon I was making eye contact with them minimally. I’d grown tired of Juniper’s sulking, so I told her to look in one of her cookbooks for something to make. Something long and involved, something like bread from scratch or flan. She brightened at the idea and set to work.

“You can’t ask me every few seconds if we have this ingredient or that,” I warned her amid the clanking of mixing bowls and whisks.

“I won’t,” she said.

Not five minutes into her spice cake endeavor, she asked me how much 16 ounces was.

“It’s two cups. You have ounces on that measuring cup, you know,” I said without looking up from my laptop.

A few minutes later: “Would you say this is an eighth of a teaspoon?”

I wanted to say, LEAVE ME ALONE. LEAVE. ME. ALONE. But instead I said, “Go with your instincts. They’re pretty good sometimes.”

We were in each other’s faces for a long time, and I’d had enough. I needed a break. Monday, I thought. Just hold on until Monday.

Then last night I had the most awful nightmare. Somehow  the kids were taken away from me and put in foster care. Yes, it’s a mystery to me, too.

Weeks later (interesting it took me weeks), I went to pick them up, as if I were picking up  dry cleaning or a computer that’d been shipped off for repairs.

So Juniper came out first. The really terrible thing was that whoever put them in foster care put them in separate homes. On second thought, seeing how they fight sometimes, maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.

Anyway, Juniper came out looking pretty good, being her usual cool as a cucumber self. If her foster parents had been branding her with hot irons every day, she wasn’t letting on.

Then out came Roofie, who appeared to have had quite a different experience in foster care. He was filthy, his hair was sticking up every which way, and it was full of lice and these little white bugs that were just circling his head. And he turned to me and said: Thank you for getting me out of this HELL where I’ve been failing.


I didn’t know what it meant, but we embraced anyway. Then I woke up.  It left me with that awful feeling, you know when you wake up from a dream but it still feels real and your heart is pounding out of your chest? Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to relax and enjoy them. Perhaps the moral of the story is this: enjoy your kids today, because you never know when they might end up in foster care.

Who’s Your Daddy

3 06 2009

This morning before the temperature reaches a majillion degrees, we go to the greenway.  The kids are rollerblading, I’m jogging with Elvis. And Roofie tells me that he wishes his first words as a baby were “I love you, mama.” If only we could rewind time.

So Juniper, ever the daddy’s girl, says “That’s not very nice. What about daddy?”

Roofie: Daddy? No. Who takes us skating? Who makes us breakfast and lunch and dinner? MAMA.

Of course, I’m beaming at this, even though I should come in with something more magnanimous, something along the lines of what my 11-year-old daughter is saying. But I’m ahead of them, so they can’t see my face, right? Beam, beam, beam, like a pair of Xenon headlights.

Juniper: Yeah, but…if daddy wasn’t here, we’d all be broke. No offense, mom.

Oh. Right. None taken.