Pet Peeves

Not So Happy Meal

Earlier today (or rather, yesterday –  I’m having trouble sleeping), I failed my family.  I did not fail them by doing something that I should not have done.  Quite the opposite.  I did not act when I should have and I put not only my own safety at risk, but also that of my children.

A long and complicated series of events resulted in the necessity for me to travel by public transportation with my 3 year old daughter and 8 year old son to downtown Chicago to meet up with my husband.  If you have never had the opportunity to do this with your own children, count your lucky stars.  It took a considerable amount of time to pack a backpack with a change of clothes for each of the kids (in case we had the chance to play in the fountain at Millennium Park), light jackets for each of us (it’s cooler by the lake), proper first aid supplies (I like to be prepared), things to entertain them on the train so they wouldn’t behave like animals (didn’t work),  sunblock, a hat for me (hey, lots of women have thinning hair and run the risk of a sunburned scalp), water and the essentials from my purse (wallet, aspirin, etc.) so I would only have one (very heavy) item to lug around.  I also had to make sure each child was dressed, fed, and had empty bladders prior to hitching a ride from my neighbor to the train station.

Upon reaching our destination downtown, I wanted to find a place to let the kids unwind and have something to eat (my daughter had been whining about being hungry for the last hour) while I got my bearings on my Smartphone Overlord and verified the correct route to the art festival where I would meet my husband.  Finding the Golden Arches in close proximity, we headed inside for a couple of Happy Meals.

Not 10 minutes into our meal, a stranger approached our table and began talking to us.  We were seated next to a half wall separating the eating area from the path leading to the restrooms and this man stood on the other side of the waist high wall talking to us as if he were sitting at our table.  Even my son could tell that there was something not quite right about him.  In between whatever he was trying (mostly incoherently) to communicate to me, he would lecture my son to “always respect his mother” and “there’s nothing like a mother’s love.”  Then he told my daughter (in case you missed it, she’s 3) that when she was old enough, he was going to marry her.

And what did I do?  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.

I thought about going to get some help, but I certainly couldn’t leave the children there.  I thought about ways I could tell him to go away because he was scaring us, but I was afraid that whatever I said would set him off.  I thought about just packing up the kids and leaving, but I was concerned that he would follow us.  I simply did not know what to do.

Had I been alone, this would not have been an issue.  I could have gotten up and moved or asked for help from an employee or even risked his anger by telling  him to leave.  But the presence of my children somehow stifled my ability to act until ultimately, an employee noticed my plight and sent a security guard to our rescue.  When we left the restaurant, we had to walk past the man who was now shouting at me about how I shouldn’t have called the cops on him.  I conducted my children down the street as quickly as possible and made sure to check several times that he wasn’t following us.

What kind of example did I set for my son, who has been on the receiving end of plenty of “stranger danger” lectures?  What should I tell my daughter to do should she ever find herself in a similar situation?  What if that security guard hadn’t been there to help us?

As a woman who has done a lot of traveling, I know how important it is to be aware of your surroundings and mentally ready to defend yourself should the need arise.  But it never even remotely occurred to me that I might not be alone if trouble should come my way and I honestly still don’t know what I should have done to ensure our safety.

I clearly recognize this experience as a teachable moment.  So will you please tell me what you would have done so that I will know what to do in the future?  Besides getting Happy Meals only through the drive through, I mean.  That’s a given.

Humor, Pet Peeves

My Husband Fought the Law and the Law Won

My husband is in court today. Why? Because he’s an idiot, that’s why. This is how it went down.

Due to a myriad of contributing factors, we have recently downgraded our family transportation to a single car. One result of this choice is that the children and I drive my husband to the train station for his commute to work and then pick him up again each evening. About two weeks ago, I received a call from my wonderful husband approximately an hour before his train’s arrival time in which he confessed to me, a hint of incredulity in his sheepish voice, that he had been arrested.

Evildoers Beware!

Since we hadn’t planned any bank heists, instances of masked vigilantism, or naked jaywalking escapades, I understandably had considerable difficulty processing this information, so I shook my head to dissipate the fog of skepticism and responded with an eloquent, “You what?”

Thus began a series of events that I am still having a hard time believing possible. Still not quite understanding what was going on, I was told that the Metra Police (seriously – train cops – I had no idea) were taking my husband “downtown” (I thought that only happened in the movies) for processing. Knowing that in Chicago traffic, it could take me hours to reach the facility where my husband was being held, I loaded the children in the car, set up the GPS, and headed to McDonald’s (or The Golden Arches of Kiddie Mecca) to purchase a dinner that my children might actually eat after playing with (and most likely fighting over before breaking) their cheap plastic toys, before embarking on my journey to bail my spouse out of the Big House.

Enroute to the clink, I had to pull over on the highway to try to clean my 3-year-old daughter’s regurgitated McNuggets from, well, everywhere, with the solitary diaper wipe left in my “Adventure Pack” as my 7-year-old son completely lost his marbles in his utter abhorrence to being in close proximity to his sister’s puke.  In my haste, I did not put extra clothes in my Adventure Pack, and was forced to move the most heavily soiled articles, (jacket, booster seat cover, floor mats) to the trunk and allow my daughter to stew in her shirt and leggings holding her crusty lovey, Bob, before continuing my trek.

Bob, post bath

The Metra Police building where my husband was being held was surrounded by an immense fence which I was only able to access after being flagged down by officers that had just exited the compound and given instructions to “drive to the gate, press the button, drive to the westernmost building and wait in the car for an officer to meet you.”  The officer that met us told me that my husband was being transferred to the Chicago Police and we had to wait in the car.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We were not allowed inside the building until my son and I had to urinate so badly we had seriously considered the side of a police car a viable alternative if we could only be sure we wouldn’t be caught on surveillance video.  As our eyeballs floated, we were finally escorted into the building to pee and make an attempt to more thoroughly clean up my daughter.

Before they transferred my delinquent husband to the Chicago Police, a Metra Sergeant arrived and asked if my husband had ever been arrested before.  When I answered, “No,” he responded that processing always takes a long time for first timers and that it would most likely be a while before they wrapped things up at the Chicago station.  So, I appealed to my parents to come rescue the children for the night (I still can’t decide who was more excited by that prospect, my parents or the children) and followed the Metra officer’s vehicle, with my husband handcuffed in the back, to the Chicago slammer.

This could take a while

My husband was finally sent on his way on an individual bond at about 1:00 in the morning after about 10 hours in the poky.

His crime? He was on the wrong side of the train that had just pulled into the station, so he went under the train to get on.  This action is, apparently, a felony.  The engineer saw him, had a conductor remove him from the train and turn him over to the local police, who then transferred him to the Metra Police, and then, of course, to the Chicago Police.  Because my miscreant of a husband was so polite and cooperative, the Metra Police decided to “take it easy” on him and only charged him with a misdemeanor.

His punishment?  Twenty hours of community service and attorney’s fees.  Seriously.  I wish I had the imagination required to make this stuff up.

The moral of this story?  Don’t be an idiot.  It could be a felony.