An essay about caring for my grandmother during her Alzheimer’s illness. It’s about the way we forget who our loved ones were before they got sick. Please go to Hippocampus Magazine to read it! Thank you!
An essay about caring for my grandmother during her Alzheimer’s illness. It’s about the way we forget who our loved ones were before they got sick. Please go to Hippocampus Magazine to read it! Thank you!
Anyone who ever met Charles “Cotton” Proe quickly forgot about the iron split-hook peeking out from his buttoned cuff where his left hand should have been. Instead they would be whirled up into Cotton’s friendly ambiance: his smile, firm handshake, and a gentle shine in his eyes. All who knew him called him “Cotton,” a nickname bestowed in early childhood for his nearly white head of hair. Although his shock of white became more blonde the older he got, the name stuck, becoming a small part of what made him such a unique man to those who knew him.
The essence of a man’s life may be difficult to capture, especially in a scrapbook. But, for Cotton, his scrapbook sums up his character and fortitude well. Many of his triumphs, illustrating his ability to overcome his limitations, appear in newspaper clippings; those that weren’t written about might be captured in a photo or a story told by his only living daughter, Bobbie, sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee, looking through his scrapbook. And with Cotton Proe, there’s never been a shortage of stories.
One black-and-white photo in his scrapbook, circa 1909, shows Cotton as a young boy in Nebraska wearing his newsboy cap, kneeling within a row of other young boys all holding up dead coyotes. Cotton is holding one canine’s head while another boy holds the limp but beautiful body. The animal looks like he’s sleeping. Behind them are nearly 50 adults, family, and neighbors, the women in bonnets and dark coats, the men blurry in the background, most with barely detectable smiles or none at all. But Cotton, he looked like a boy who had just lost his best friend, with his full lips in a pout. Some looking at the photo might think it’s just country ranchers showing off their kill, but for Cotton’s middle daughter, Bobbie, that photo tells a much sadder story. “Daddy begged them not to kill this one coyote. He loved that coyote—he was like a pet to him. But, they went ahead and killed him anyway and Daddy was crying for his friend in that photo.”
Later years, in high school, a sepia-toned photo shows a basketball team, Cotton standing the tallest, arms crossed like his teammates, long nose, dimpled square chin, blonde hair short on the sides and longer on top, brushed straight back, resembling hair styles of the present day, his head tilted slightly, looking a bit cocky and certainly sure of himself. After high school, an article titled “Creamery Five Cinches Title in City Loop” describes a winning game for the semi-pro Norfolk Creamery team. Cotton scored well above his other team mates (and his competition), earning 12 points out of the 22 points that won the game. One can imagine his large, strong hands grasping the basketball and shooting the winning hoop. “It was the basket flipping of Proe, Creamery center, that cinched the game for his mates.”
When Cotton was about twenty-two, Colorado came calling and he made the move to Alamosa, where one of his first jobs was hauling bricks to the construction site of the Alamosa State Normal School. Years later, when his oldest great-granddaughter told him she was accepted to Adams State College he said, “Well, I’ll be darned, Lil’ Red. I hauled the first load of bricks used to build Adams State back in the early 1920s when it was just a patch of grass. Isn’t that somethin’?” Whether her great-granddad was more proud of her or his part in the history of Adams State, she wasn’t sure; but his enthusiasm was evident either way.
One day, Cotton was driving to South Fork for a date when he spotted a beautiful woman standing on a bridge looking out over the Rio Grande River. Dorothy was helping a friend serve food to the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad crew at Masonic Park and was taking a break. Self-assured as always, Cotton pulled his Model T off to the side of the road and began to chat Dorothy up. Cotton quickly changed course and took Dorothy on a date that night instead. They married in 1925.
Other photos of the early 20s show Cotton, tall, lean, and dusty, in his life as a farm-hand, with bib overalls rolled at the cuffs, holding the reins of a horse. Lending more detail of Cotton’s life at that time is a photo-copy of an article about Jack Dempsey, the championship boxer. Jack was visiting his family’s farm in his home town of Manassa, just outside Alamosa. The photo shows a row of people standing in front of a Model T. In the middle stands a man in suspenders with a wide-brimmed black hat, hands in pockets—the only one with a slight smile in the photo. The caption reads: “Dempsey held a deep affection for this family and kept in constant touch with them. Here he and Kearns [his manager] are seen visiting Dempsey’s brother. Unidentified man in center was hired farm hand.”
After Cotton’s life as a farm hand, the photos of his life fade out for a bit, but the stories don’t. There’s no newspaper article telling of the Denver and Rio Grande railroad train he saved from derailing as a young brakeman working his normal route from Alamosa to Chama, New Mexico. But his daughter Bobbie will tell of the night in a dark canyon when Cotton was alerted that something was wrong while working in the second engine car. He swung out of his car, hurrying across the side until he reached the locomotive engine in the front. Finding the engineer asleep, Cotton grabbed the brake, grinding the train to a halt before it hit a large boulder on the tracks. Those that know Cotton will say he recounted all of his stories with humility and humor and, although he was a hero in this story, he probably didn’t feel like one.
In the early 1930s, a couple of years after leaving Alamosa (after quick stint as a Hoover vacuum salesman in Wyoming and Limon, Colorado), Cotton moved his wife and young daughter, Elaine, to Cañon City. A few years later he found one of his callings as a prison guard at “Old Max,” Colorado Territory’s first prison, built in 1871. Cotton’s relationship with the inmates wasn’t typical, but nothing much about Cotton’s life was. He put together a baseball team of trusties and took them to play ball with other town teams at the baseball field. He’d cart along his daughters and afterwards he’d treat them all to a burger at Murphy’s Drive Inn. Bobbie still looks back on those days with a giggle and watering mouth—it was the one time she was allowed to drink soda: an icy-cold bottle of Orange Crush. For Cotton and his girls, the cons were extended family, even the murderers. One convict even made Cotton’s eldest daughter a beautiful wooden chest, which remained one of Elaine’s most precious possessions.
Between baseball seasons with the inmates, Cotton’s youngest daughter, Peggy, was born premature. (Peggy would put together the scrapbook for her father decades later.) She was so tiny Cotton could slide his Masonic ring over her hand all the way up to her shoulder. Fearing she’d be dropped by a nun at the hospital, he built an incubator for her at home that used a light bulb for warmth. That story never made the paper either, but it survives in family lore.
But amidst the newspaper articles of Cotton’s life, among his obituary and short articles telling of his volunteer work and civil duties, is the one that explains best how a man lost his large, strong hand: the one that built the incubator, stopped the train, and threw the winning basket, and overcame his disability to keep playing his beloved game of golf.
“Up to 1943, I had a four handicap [in golf],” Cotton told reporter Bob Wood in an article published in 1973 and again in 1987. “In 1944,” he continued, “May 18th at 8 o’ clock in the morning, I cut my arm off in a sausage grinder.” Cotton was working in a grocery store, grinding meat, and when he pushed his hand in too far, the blades grabbed it. Cotton was rushed to a hospital in Colorado Springs where doctors managed only to re-connect his thumb to part of his forearm. Waking up from surgery, Cotton’s realization of his changed life must have been crushing.
“Lying in bed there, when the doctor came in I said, ‘Hey Doc, can I play golf anymore?’ He wouldn’t answer me.” After Cotton’s surgery, he asked for the thumb to be removed as well. He had befriended a young girl in the hospital with a prosthetic leg and seeing that her leg didn’t slow her down at all, he decided he wanted to be fitted for a prosthetic arm and couldn’t have one with his thumb attached. Cotton endured more surgeries. He confided years later to his son-in-law that the subsequent surgeries were harder than the initial one because they had to amputate even more of the arm to accommodate the prosthesis. He was often “cranky,” Bobbie remembers, primarily because the shoulder strap that controlled his hook’s opening and closing would rub his skin raw. It took many drives to Denver before the substitute arm and hand fit well.
Once Cotton’s pain was under control, his feisty spirit returned and it wasn’t long before he was on a mission to find a way to play golf. His goal: to build a prosthesis that would allow him to hold and swing his golf club again.
“I had the cons at the penitentiary help me at first because I was an ex-guard and I built eight of them before I finally perfected one.” Cotton designed his “hand” out of a piece of hose from a tractor for flexibility, a locking pair of pliers, and a rounded clamp welded the to the tip of the pliers. “I went out to the course and I hit a ball about 200 yards down the middle and I said, ‘Boy, I’ve got ‘er.’”
Life went on for Cotton. He bought and remodeled an old theater on Main Street, turning it into a bowling alley. An old black-and-white photo shows a piece of Main Street with a large white bowling pin sign attached high on the brick near the apartment windows above the store-fronts. Nestled between two signs, “Liquors” and the “E-A-T-S; Ellie’s Diner,” is an arrow pointing to the door of the bowling alley that says “Popcorn,” perhaps left over from the theatre days. He set up bowling teams for the kids in town and Bobbie would do her homework there after school so she could bowl afterwards. He ran the place for years, hiring a couple of club-footed siblings to be pin setters. He’d buy the kids shoes and other items their family couldn’t afford, save their money for them until they had something they wanted to spend it on, and drive them home “way out to the boondocks” when the bowling alley closed at night.
After Cotton left the bowling alley business, he began a twenty-year career as the superintendent of the “finest humane shelter in the United States,” according to a Daily Record article in January, 1969. Multi-page articles fill the scrapbook touting the new animal shelter (better known as the Humane Society of Fremont County now) with photos: the shelter with the caretaker apartment on top; brand new dog kennels and runs; Cotton preparing dog food for the nightly feeding; and his wife, Dorothy, bathing a stray dog. As well as taking care of homeless dogs and cats, Cotton and Dorothy often took in whatever family members needed taking in—somehow managing to fit everyone into the small five-room apartment above the shelter.
One perk of being the superintendent of the shelter was that Cotton oversaw all filming of movies, like The White Buffalo starring Charles Bronson, near the Cañon City area if horses or other animals were involved, ensuring the animals were treated well. He quickly became a favorite of cast and crew on many films. “The actors loved Daddy and looked after him,” Bobbie remembers. In one film, an actor tried dismounting a horse when his foot became caught, dragging him behind the running horse. Cotton quickly grabbed another horse and stood in the path of the runaway horse to stop him. He did stop the horse but was knocked around a bit and broke some ribs in the process. But, Cotton did what he always did: saved the day in his humble sort of manner.
A few pages over, a clipping shows Cotton accepting an award from the Elks (even though he wasn’t a member himself) for “Citizen of the Year.” They praised him for running the Fremont County Humane Society for two decades and for his care and love for animals. After a speech by an Elk member proclaiming Cotton’s “brotherly love” because he saved thousands of animal lives, he received a standing ovation from over 150 people. Cotton’s smile is humble yet proud.
After Cotton’s loss of his forearm and hand, he went on to become a legend in small-town Cañon City. He encouraged wounded World War II soldiers who’d lost a limb not to give up and showed the vets, by example, life could continue with some hope and determination. He won trophies for his excellent golf game (and bowling) and folks hailed him when he still continued winning trophies at tournaments into his 80s. And although he’s the only one in the golf and bowling photos wearing long sleeves (a far cry from the sleeveless shirts showing off his muscled arms of his basketball days), he seems a happy man, someone who did his best to make the town he loved a little better than he found it.
One writer, his name not visible from the photocopy of the article, after watching the Senior Beacon Open golf tournament and telling Cotton’s story, summed up his quintessence well, saying, “Now that’s what I call the determination of the human spirit; to carry on no matter what the odds.”
Those who knew Cotton were left with an impression of him as distinctive as his name. It was only fitting that the older Cotton grew, the more his hair color resembled the color it was as a child.
Cotton told folks, “The hardest thing about gettin’ old is watching your friends die,” and because he died at 93, he outlived most of them. But his family keeps the stories and images of him alive—even if his friends can’t—picturing him on the golf course, holding the 9 iron firmly with both of his hands, his tuft of white hair glinting in the sun.
“Four Freaky New Bat Species Discovered” reads the headline of a recent Fox News article, portraying a large (much too large) photo of the ugliest creature ever seen. Uglier than a hairless cat, a Naked Mole Rat, or even a Proboscis Monkey with a nose that takes up a third of his face. At least the monkey has a real nose.
The new bat species are a type of horseshoe bat known for their flappy, grooved, wide-open noses called “noseleaves.” They don’t look like noses, though—more like a dog’s ear that’s been sliced a few ways, turned inside out, and glued to the front of the bat where a nose should be. Apparently, most bats emit sonar from their mouths, but these hideous creatures echolocate from their noses. Good for them. Even better is the fact that they can only be found in eastern Africa, which is far, far away from me.
Unfortunately, not all bats are that far away from me. One evening last spring, my dog and I were happily lounging on the couch, I, watching TV (recovering from too much tequila the night before), Izzy, dozing like dogs do. Suddenly, we both caught something in our peripheral vision move from the top of the floor-length curtains on the French doors to underneath the couch. Izzy and I needed no conversation on this one—we were up and off of that couch in one-tenth of a second. I thought, “What in the hell was that? ” I bet Izzy thought something very similar.
I looked down at the floor, and there, at the end of the couch was an extended brown-black bat wing sticking out.
Saying I was horrified might be an understatement.
Bats do not belong in your living space. Period. You can’t compare them to a mouse or a bird or a squirrel. Bats are bats—creepy, ugly, and dangerous if they carry rabies. It didn’t help that I had just heard a story on the radio that morning about a man who died from a bat-bite to the foot. Words. In my head. Rabies, shots in the abdomen, rabies, ten-thousand visits to the doctor for shots in the abdomen with big needles, rabies…
I used to like bats, from afar. I’d enjoy watching them at dusk, swoop out of their sleeping places and dive gracefully after the bugs. I didn’t mind the clicking noises coming from the trees at night knowing those furry, little bats were preventing countless mosquito bites (they can eat up to 1,000 mosquitos an hour), making my night more enjoyable on the patio. Bats are mysterious and intriguing and the basis of so much lore that a person can even be afraid of them and still love them the way we love graveyards, Halloween, or watching scary movies. We like to be a little afraid. The second summer after I moved into my old, Tudor house in the Park Hill neighborhood, I even saw the bats coming from behind the ivy near the peak of the roof. I didn’t care, I’m only renting, and hell, I liked the bats.
But, somehow, having one of them under your couch changes that sentiment pretty quickly.
I took Izzy down to the basement where my roommate lives and asked him to keep her in his room. “Oh, of course! Glad I can help by keeping her company!” Mike is not a manly man. He’s not the stereotypical feminine gay man either, but still, I’m more of a man than he is. Not surprising, he didn’t offer to help me get the bat out of the house.
Returning upstairs, I took a peek under the couch. Yep, still there.
So I did what I always do when I’m scared and don’t know what to do. I called my dad. (After leaving the house and shutting the door). He wasn’t helpful, unless you call reminding me that people have to get lots and lots of shots in their abdomens for rabies helpful.
Next, I called my big boss from work. He was the man who’d know what to do. “Open all the doors,” Spero said, “and then get a broom and push him out the door.” I hung up, gathered all the bravery I could muster and started opening the doors. As I opened the last of the doors, the French doors, I moved the drapes to the side and heard a hissing noise. I looked up. There in the folds of the brown curtains was a very well-disguised bat.
I screamed. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. I have two bats!” I ran from the house and called my dad. Again, not helpful.
Eventually, I looked under the couch and there was no bat, so I realized there was only one bat and he was back on the curtains where he’d started from. I felt like an idiot for thinking the whole house was full of bats, but I was relieved nonetheless.
I took a deep breath and grabbed the broom, trying to brush the creature towards the open door, but instead of going outside, he started flying like a maniacal killer in circles around the room not far above my head.
“Ahhh!” I screamed as I squatted on the floor ducking with the broom above me. “Shiiiittt!” I tried to open the pocket door to the kitchen (the closest exit out of there), but the door came off its rail and jammed with only an inch-wide opening. A good sized opening for a bat, but not for me. Now I’d have to go the long way around to the other door to escape.
I waddled around the couch to the stairwell door, opened it and ran down the stairs into Mike’s room. After shutting his door, I leaned against the wall, sliding all the way down until my butt hit the floor, my face buried in my hands. I cried some weird cry with no tears. This must be how you cry when you scared shitless, I thought.
I couldn’t even speak to Mike. I was annoyed. Why can’t I, just this once, have a manly-man roommate to help me get this psychotic bat out of my house? I was also peeved that my boyfriend wasn’t answering his phone, let alone on his way over to save me. Can’t a guy just save a girl from this fucked-up situation?
After five minutes, I regained some sort of composure and went back upstairs giving myself a pep talk as I went. “You can do this, you can do this. Don’t be a wimp.”
Back upstairs I found no bat. Not in the curtains, not under the couch. Since all the doors were still standing wide open, I thought he must have flown out. I looked around the room and it looked like it had been ransacked. I had no memory of trashing the place.
Slowly, I started putting everything back in order. As I was cleaning up bat guano from the floor below the curtains, I heard hissing. Near where I was kneeling, on the floor, was the ugliest, scariest creature looking up at me with his mouth wide open, baring 856 needle-sharp teeth.
“Holy shit! Are you kidding me?” Quickly, I grabbed a box and put it over the bat. He hissed some more. I collapsed on the couch.
Once I slowed my heart-rate, I tried sliding the box over the threshold of the French doors. It was too high. The gap was too big. The bat was really pissed now and I knew if I kept lifting that box over the threshold he was coming for me.
Now what? I called Dad again. This time he actually had something of value to offer. “Slide something thin and strong under the box and then you can carry him outside.” I went to the basement and found a pad used for cutting quilting squares big enough to cover the opening of the box.
Slowly, slowly, so I could give him a chance to hop on the pad, I slid it underneath the box.
I left the bat and the box alone for a while to calm myself down. I just didn’t know if I could take a chance lifting up the box, holding the pad just right so the bat couldn’t escape and carrying him outside. I needed to think on it. Maybe give myself another pep talk.
The gods must have been half-listening in when I asked for a man to come take care of the situation, because just then my (young and very boyish) step-brother called and said he was going to be over in a couple of minutes to borrow my sleeping bag. Hey, I’ll take what I can get.
Chen Mi greeted me with his typical child-like enthusiasm. I realized this might be the one and only time I am grateful for his immature bravery. Instead of eating red dirt in Sedona to see what it tasted like, or recklessly climbing pine trees while camping, I could use this to my advantage to get him to deal with the bat.
Really, I didn’t have to manipulate him at all. He “loves” bats it turns out! Fun! I tried to be grateful Chen Mi was there even when he told me that I was being silly to be so afraid of a bat. “Cathy, bats are good luck for the Chinese! It’s good to have one in your house!”
There was no use trying to express my fear to a fearless person, so I just nodded.
I was still grateful, though. Just having another human next to me felt reassuring and I knew he’d do whatever I needed him to do.
I said, “Okay, Chen Mi. Since you’re not afraid, please help me get this box outside and then YOU can lift the lid and let it go free.” We carefully picked up the mat beneath the box, gingerly holding the box in place. I felt like we were on the bomb squad. Maybe we should have protective bat suits, I thought. After stepping over the awkward threshold, we set the box down on the concrete patio very gently.
“Don’t touch that box, Chen Mi, until I’m inside with the door shut. Got it?”
He looked at me like a boy on Christmas about to open the best present ever. “Okay, Cathy! No problem!”
Quickly, I stepped inside and shut the door. Even though there was glass in the French doors, I couldn’t watch him free the bat. Nope. Done with the bat.
Chen Mi came back inside and said, “Wow, that was a cool bat!” I just hugged him. Thank God for little Chinese brothers who find all this scary shit fascinating.
In order to move past this bat-trauma I’ve tried to learn more about bats, so that maybe, just maybe, I can get rid myself of the image of the vampire-toothed creature.
Really, the only thing that makes me love bats now is the nifty fact that I may not have my high-quality tequila without them. Turns out those little bastard bats pollinate the agave plant whose seed production drops to 1/3000th of normal without them.
Good to know. So next time I’m drinking my tequila I’ll toast to the bats, but please, keep them out of my living room.
I met the nicest criminal today. He wore a bright green and white horizontal striped polo shirt—not a black hoody like a normal criminal would. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a meth addict. Just a guy in his early 30’s, who ate real well, with his hair pulled back in a pony-tail.
I was at work, rushing to meet Ursula for lunch, but first I needed to mail a card. The fastest way for me to get to the mailroom is to cut through the break-room from the outside of the building to the inner hallway.
I swung the door open to the break-room, walked past the Pepsi machine, noting out of the corner of my eye a guy standing very close to the side of the machine. I thought it was odd—maybe he was loading it with bottles of soda? Even in that quick glimpse though, I knew he wasn’t wearing a uniform and thought it strange.
As I headed to the interior break-room door, I saw it was closed. It was never closed. I knew something was up for sure. “Shit,” I thought. “I don’t want to know what creepy stuff’s going on. I just want my lunch. I’m starving.” I almost walked out of the room, feigning ignorance. But, I thought that would be irresponsible, so I turned around to look at him.
He was hugged up tight against the vending machine. At first I thought he might be humping it, but then I saw the crow bar in his hands. He was prying open the seam near where the contraption sucks in the dollar bills. Hmm. Did the beast eat his money? No, no, Cathy! People don’t carry around crow bars when they buy soda!
Then I understood. He looked at me apologetically like he had just cut me off in traffic and felt really, really bad. He snatched a dollar bill out of the machine. He looked at me again, then back to his little gold mine to grab another. After he had a few bills accumulated, he shoved them into his shirt.
Why isn’t he running out the door? He could have escaped without me even getting a good look at him. Damn. Why is he forcing me to confront him? I don’t want to. He should be running out the door. What sort of criminal is he anyway for God’s sake?
“What the hell are you doing?” I finally say, trying to sound intimidating. But really, I sound as casual as if I’d asked the barista at Starbucks, “Can I get a tall two pump white chocolate mocha, please?”
“Sorry,” he replies. He makes no move though—just keeps filling his shirt with dollar bills, now one at time.
This time, I decide, I’m going to sound stern: “I think you better get out of here,” I say. But instead the words come out like I’m his accomplice. More like: “Hurry, Dude! Get outta here before someone really mean walks through that door and you’re busted for real!”
“Okay,” he pleads. “Sorry. I’m sorry.” He says “Okay,” but he’s not moving. Instead he looks at me as if I just caught him taking a piss in the trash can and he was doing his best to hurry even though he was mid-stream.
I’m still perplexed by the apology: Sorry for what? “Sorry I’m interrupting your lunch when it’s 47 minutes past the time you normally eat.” Or maybe, “Sorry for stealing, but I only need three more dollars before I have enough to buy my dog a pretty collar with rhinestones. Bear with me here.”
Admittedly, I didn’t know what I was going to do next if he didn’t leave. He was being so polite. Who was I to be rude? Finally, satisfied he’d held me at bay longer than I could stand, or maybe satisfied he could now buy his dog a pretty collar, he walks to the door. But, instead of just walking out and not looking back, he is looking back. At me.
It was a weird moment, but the cop’s daughter in me said, “Quick, memorize his face and clothes!” So, I did. I took it all in. Every detail. Possibly Hispanic, hasn’t shaved, but isn’t that hairy anyway, could lose a few pounds, and wearing a really ugly shirt. Done.
At last he leaves. I open the other door to the hall. I don’t want to call the cops. I’ll be late. And I told Ursula to meet me at the car and I won’t be at my car because I’m here, dealing with shit I don’t want to be dealing with. Why bother? I don’t care about the pop machine. That shittin’ machine takes a buck-fifty from my pocket every time I buy a soda. A rip off! Let him have the money—the soda monster deserves being robbed in return.
But then our building administrator’s voice is in my head: “You what? You didn’t call the police?”
Okay, okay. While I’m looking around for a phone, I remember I have my cell phone. But, do I have campus 911 number programed in my phone? I check. Yes, I do, because I’m a former cop’s daughter and these are the things you do to be prepared—you know, just in case.
I dial and walk outside to see if I can see the guy. Nope, he’s gone. Oh, well. Time to get lunch. I’m beyond starving now.
I look around for Ursula, afraid I’m going to miss her.
The dispatcher in my ear is very serious: Where is he now? Which way did he go? What did he look like? I’m sending an officer right now.
“Look,” I say, “I’m on my way off-campus. I have to meet someone. Can you just have the cop meet me in an hour?”
“Oh, no. You’re the witness. You have to stay to talk to the officer.” I just roll my eyes.
Now I’m looking out for Ursula more than I am the courteous thief.
The cop comes. He says he has other cops looking for the guy. I explain what happened. We laugh because the guy was so sorry. Then I spot Ursula walking out and I open the door and scream, “Ursula! I’m in here!” She comes in and when I tell her what happened she laughs, too, but really Ursula laughs at everything. I love that.
I describe the guy to the cop like a good witness, over and over. No, he didn’t have a Spanish accent even though he looked Hispanic. No, I didn’t really notice his pants. Yes, he was really sorry. Super polite guy. Yeah, real nice.
I write down everything about myself on a card for him. “Do you really need my social security number?” I ask?
“No,” he says, “Just your work information is fine…and your driver’s license info. Oh, and your phone numbers.”
The irony doesn’t escape me that I’m the one being treated like a criminal here. That dude is off buying his dog collar and now it’s 72 minutes past my lunch time, and I’m impatient and bitchy and really fucking hungry.
“Can I leave now,” I ask?
“I’m running this all through my head trying to see if I got everything—trying to decide just that,” he says, flipping through the pages of his nifty little notebook full of crime-fighting details.
I grab my stuff. I’m headed to the door nodding to Ursula to follow me out. “Okay?” I ask.
“Sure. You can go.”
Later, back from lunch, I told a co-worker what happened. He said, “I would have told him to put all the money on the table and if he didn’t do it I would have tackled him!”
“Really?” I was puzzled. “Over $10 from the Pepsi machine?”
My dad’s response was similar: “See, Cathy, if you had your concealed weapons permit, you could have pulled your pistol from your purse and held him at gun point until the police got there.”
After hearing everyone else’s version of how things should have gone down, I could see how neither my polite new friend, nor I, acted the way we should have. He wasn’t a typical psychopath and I’m no Charlie’s Angel. But so what? I think in the end he and I did just fine. After all, he just wanted a few bucks, and I… Well, I just wanted to eat my lunch.