I got a call recently from Nora at the end of the workday. She started with a little sigh and an anxious voice. But even when she’s stressed, Nora hardly ever gets straight to the point.
“So I was bringing Grey home from school and I asked him to pull my credit card out of my mini purse – you know the little one from Mexico? – so that I could pay for fries at McDonalds.” Fries and Coke. Nora doesn’t have very many vices, but she loves her fries and Coke. And don’t you even try to substitute Burger King fries and Diet Coke.
“What are you doing stopping at McDonald’s for fries?” I interrupt. “You’re gonna spoil Grey’s appetite – we’re eating dinner in a little bit!”
“Would you just listen? No one’s appetite was compromised.” She thought she was losing me, so she shorted the story and went straight for the finish: “Grey unzipped the purse and the credit card was gone!”
“Are you serious? Did you leave it out at school?” Nora works in a high school, and I’m always imagining her students are little juvenile delinquents. That nasty bias is all on me I suppose, but I blame it on Nora because she only always tells me about the wayward kids, and not the ones who are doing virtuous things. I guess she figures I’ll be more interested in the kid who takes a piss in his teacher’s purse, versus the one who earns a college scholarship.
She lets me stew for a bit more, probably to test what other biases I might reveal under duress, then this: “Turns out I had my card out the other day and forgot to put it back. So we’re good.”
“Why did you do that to me?” I ask, all hurt.
“But that’s not for like a week!” I said.
“Yeah, I know, but it’s much more effective if you aren’t expecting it,” she responded. “Besides, I thought we shared everything. I wanted you to have the same sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that I had.”
Nora’s ruse was effective because keeping track of valuables in not her forte. I can think of at least two occasions when she left her credit card somewhere (once at a gas station, once in a restaurant), and someone picked it up and went on a shopping spree. Not much harm, really, since credit card fraud liability is capped at $50 for cardholders, except for all the time spent to straighten things out with the card-issuing bank and the credit agencies.
Then there was the time when Nora left her checkbook in the car overnight with the doors unlocked. It was an early summer morning, still dark, I was sitting in my boxers, when the doorbell rang. An early morning doorbell ring is not quite as bad as a call from a family member in the middle of the night, but it’s never good.
I look out the window and maybe recognize a neighbor, but I can’t be sure. I crack the door, using it as a shield, so that he isn’t blinded by my lily-white chest.
“Is that your PT Cruiser out front?”
Do I have to answer that? If I keep quiet, how long can I delay the bad news?
Not long: “Your door is hanging open.”
My first thought when I heard the doorbell was that we’d been side-swiped by a hit-and-runner, so this was a relief.
I threw on some clothes, then walked toward the car. I could see from a distance that beyond the open door, the glove compartment door was hanging open too.
When I got to the car, it looked like it had vomited all over itself and its nearby surroundings. There were papers, and maps, and CDs, and pens everywhere.
“Darn kids,” I mutter to myself.
I get Nora, who does an inventory, and announces her checkbook is missing. We spend the following morning (Saturday) at her credit union opening a new account and closing the old one. They tell us they’ve already thwarted the passing of a bad check.
I mentioned previously how God has used our time in Baltimore to stretch our faith, and draw us closer to him. If that’s truly the case, and I believe it is, then I think he uses Nora as His #1 Agent of Stretch in my life.
I’m pretty sure I’m His #1 Agent of Stretch for Nora, too, but in different ways. I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure she’d be happy to review them with you if you have a couple hours.