(post copyright 2012, Dawn Weber)
They consistently have cash.
I consistently have none.
I consistently hold down a job.
They consistently - do not.
Who are they, you ask? Crackheads? Homeless? Social Security recipients?
No - I refer to my children. It's like Weber welfare up in here.
You'd never know it - that they have any money - because when they actually need some, they purport to have none. No, their stuffed piggy-banks, full of Christmas and birthday cash, do not stop them from continually requesting funds. From my empty purse.
"Hey Mom. This weekend? Can I get a manicure?" said my daughter, the Princess.
I glanced up at her from the laundry pile I was buried in/sorting through, and thought back to the last - and only - time I had a manicure. It involved my wedding day, a different decade and the Bush administration. The first one. I know damn sure I paid for it myself.
So I asked her, "Got any money?"
Hands flew to little teenage hips.
"What? I thought you'd pay for it! I thought we could both go get one!"
Has she met me? Surely she's mistaken me for someone else. My hands are useful - not ornamental - and though I wash them 700 times a day, I'm lucky if my nails look clean.
Anyway, have I mentioned I'm broke?
"I don't have any money. I've seen your stash. You have money. I have none."
"I thought you'd pay for it!" she said.
"Again, I say - you got any money?"
But it's not just the girl who pilfers, no. My son, the Hobo - he is quite the scheister, too, as hobos tend to be . . .
"Mom, can I pre-order Call of Duty 33: Mass Destruction?"
"You already have Call of Duty!"
"That's Call of Duty - Black Ops. Call of Duty 33 Mass Destruction comes out November 10," he said.
"You got any money?" I asked him.
"Well, I thought you'd buy it . . ."
"My purse is empty. Your piggy bank is full. Why don't you buy it?"
You can see a theme here.
But last Friday, things were different.
I had 35 dollars . . . of my own.
And I had 35 minutes . . . to myself.
Normally I possess neither dollars nor minutes. Owning 35 of each was pretty exhilarating, to say the least. My days have been sold to the people of Ohio, and - as we've discussed - any cash I earn belongs to my kids. According to them.
The Princess didn't require a ride home from practice until 4:30. Not only that, a bill had fallen through - hence the money - so I was pretty much rolling in time and cash that the little Weber welfare recipients hadn't requested. Yet.
Thirty-five dollars, 35 minutes. I am a 43-year-old mother of two. This is pretty much as good as it gets.
To complete my ecstasy, Sears had a sale on coats, and I needed one. My current jackets hail from the Bush administration - again, the first one - and bring forth descriptions such as "lumberjack" and "grandma" - sometimes simultaneously.
Yes, it was a good day. A day of rainbows and unicorns and outerwear sales.
So you can imagine my dismay when the Russian man kidnapped me.
"Meass? MEASS! Come HERE, please!"
He called me from a perch near his kiosk, a cart-ish affair with products piled on top. Normally I ignore these over-priced heaps of junk. I am not paying twenty-damn-dollars for a cell phone case I can get on Amazon for $1.27. Mama didn't raise no fool.
But this guy . . .
His command stopped me cold. He jumped from his chair and marched over to me, eyes burning.
Now, maybe I've seen too many war movies. Or watched the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode too many times. Or maybe I'm just a terrible, cowardly person. But when someone says "MEASS!" and strides over to me in this manner, well, I heed their call. And also pee my pants a little.
I turned from where I'd frozen in my tracks. "Yes?"
He grabbed my hands and held them up to his face. He turned them this way and that, pushed on my palms, and then rubbed my cuticles.
And he didn't even buy me a drink first.
"Your nails. You like man-ee-cures?"
WTF, people, with the manicures? As we've discussed, my hands are not something I care about, and earlier that day I'd stood over the toilet bowl and chopped my nails off the way I do every couple of weeks.
A nail clip and 45 seconds bent over a commode: That's my manicure.
I didn't need a manicure, I needed a damn coat. But the Cart Nazi wouldn't let go.
"You like to be pampered? To have nice theengss?"
I glanced down at my body. Old, ripped Levi's. John Deere t-shirt, various food stains. The Princess's castoff cheer shoes, circa 2009.
Clearly, this man needed help targeting his market.
"Well, not really," I told him. "Anyway, I have to get going, I only have 35 minutes and I need a new coat and Sears . . ."
He shook his head.
"Come, COME! Feel theess. You weal LIKE."
Wow. What was I in for here? He didn't give me a chance to think about it, because he didn't let go of my hand , and he pulled me to his cart. All I felt was my 35 minutes ticking away, as, from the top of the heap, he reached inside a box and plucked a small blue jar. His eyes still burned as he looked at me intently.
"Your skeen . . . on face . . . eass BEAUTIFUL."
Ooh, he was good. Possibly blind, a little bit terrifying. But good.
"What brand you use on face?" he asked.
"Well, Aveeno hand lotion usually, and then whatever sunscreen is on sale over at Walmart . . ."
"Ah, no, NO! You stop using," he said. "I have PRODUCT for you!"
Oh, here we go. He wanted my $35.
But dammit - I needed a coat.
"Theess has Minerals from the Dead SEA! Your skeen needss . . ."
I figured $10 might be worth it, to buy my way out. Ransom. I'd still have $25 and 25 minutes. Enough time, and I could supplement the cash with my debit card at Sears. I really needed a coat.
"No, NO! Cream not for sale separately. Comes in SET!" He pointed to the box. "All products have ingredients from DEAD SEA."
He pulled a different item - a tube of lotion - from the box and squirted on my hand - the one he still gripped.
"These meanarils, they are good for skeen, take YEARSS off!"
"How much for the hand cream?"
"No, NO!" his eyes flashed again. "Not separate. Comes in SET!"
I was down to 15 minutes now. Would I ever escape from this guy? Would he ever let go of my hand?
Would I ever get to Sears to buy a f*cking coat?
On it went like this . . . me with the:
. . . him with the:
"Comes in SET!"
My minutes slipped away as I watched other women stroll by the cart, blissfully unaware of their freedom, probably going to Sears to buy the last $35 coat.
Eventually, he wore me down. I figured I would at least ask about the price of his 'SET!', and maybe yank my hand away while he was distracted . . .
"OK, OK - how much is it, how much is the set?"
With his free arm, he pulled out a laminated price sheet, and held it toward me. I squinted at the number.
That's One Hundred Fifty Nine Dollars and Ninety-Nine Cents. That I do not have. For lotion. Not coats.
My snort took him by surprise, but I used his shock to pull away. I spun around and headed back through the mall - towards the exit - at full speed. My 35 minutes were nearly gone.
I ignored him.
"MEASS! Come BACK! There is more in SET! Come feel - you WEEL LIKE!"
Once again, he should at least offer to buy me a drink first. I have heard the phrases "come feel" and "you will like" from a man before - only with a Southern Ohio twang - and the results of "feelin'" and "lak-kin'" left me pregnant - twice - with my little welfare recipients.
As I sprinted to the car, I made a mental note to park and enter at the department store doors next time. I tell you, if it isn't the dependents after my cash, it's the Cart Nazi at the Indian Mound Mall.
Sweet Mother of Sears. Can a girl just get some outerwear?
He took my 35 minutes that day, however - he did not get my 35 dollars. Mama didn't raise no fool.
I really need a coat.