A couple of years ago, my family and L’s dad went to LaRosa’s for their Spaghetti-a-Plenty night. We asked for separate checks, one for me and my family, one for L’s dad. It was kind of busy and the waiter was running around in a hurry because they were apparently short-handed. We were there for about an hour or so and when the time came to leave, the waiter brought one check. Z was acting up so I just left the money on the table, took my copy of the bill and we left, figuring that L and her dad would take care of making change and splitting it appropriately. A few minutes later they came out of the restaurant and we said our goodbyes. L’s dad was going to do some shopping somewhere and my family and I headed home.

As we were getting out of the van after pulling into our driveway, L asked S where her jacket was. Surprise, surprise, she left it at the restaurant. L took the kids inside to get ready for bed and I headed back toward the restaurant, calling ahead to tell them about the jacket and that I’m on my way to get it. The manager (Mindy) put me on hold while she went to look for it, but returned to the phone and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t see a jacket here. But we’ll take your name and number if it turns up.”

This totally amazed me, as we had just left the restaurant not 10 minutes prior, and I told her so. “Are you sure? We were just there, I mean…JUST there.”

“No, we didn’t see a jacket. Were you at that table in the back corner? Because there is a matter of an unpaid bill. $7.49 for spaghetti and a salad and a drink.”

I told her about the only bill that was given to us and that we left the money on the table. She acknowledged that one bill was paid, but there was a second bill that wasn’t. I was at a traffic light, so I looked at my copy of the bill and realized that the $20.00 indicated did not include L’s dad’s meal. I then explained the series of events at the table and said there was no way for me to get in touch with the “other party” as he was out of cell phone minutes and I had no idea where he was. Furthermore, I had no money because I had spent all I had on our meal. Mindy then graciously informed me that LaRosa’s would cover the cost of the meal, and if the jacket was found they would call me. I gave her my name and number.

I then called L to tell her everything that had just happened, but she still wanted me to go to the restaurant to see if anyone there might have it in their booth. After all, not a lot of time had passed and maybe, if it had been stolen, those who took it would still be there.

So I walked in, went up the front counter and asked to speak with Mindy. I reminded her of who I was (even though we had gotten off the phone with each other just several minutes ago) and told her that I was just going to double check on the off chance that the would-be thieves might still be on the premises.

I nonchalantly meandered about the dining room looking for the jacket, but did not locate it. At this point, all of the Diet Cokes I drank at dinner were starting to take their toll so I went to the bathroom. While standing there, I decided that I was going to flat out ask the manager if I could see where they put their trash in the store and where the outside dumpster is. I exited the restroom and my former server, Timmy, was standing there. “Sir, can I talk with your for a minute?”

“Absolutely, Timmy. What’s up?” I started walking toward the front counter.

“Well, we found the jacket.”

“Excellent!” Immediate relief. This would have been the second jacket that S had had stolen from her. “I’m happy to hear that.” We arrived at the front counter and there was the jacket, pizza sauce all over it.

Timmy said, “Sir, I need to apologize to you. I accidentally bussed the jacket with the dishes and we found it as we were getting ready to wash them.”

Before I could reply, Mindy (the manager) joined the discussion. “Sir, we’re going to have this dry cleaned for you. As you can see, there is some pizza sauce on the sleeve and we tried to get it out with water but it didn’t work out too well so…we’ll have it dry-cleaned and deliver it to your house. We’ll take care of it.”

I said, “OK, that’s all fine and dandy, but I just want to run over this again. You ‘accidentally’ bussed the jacket with the dishes?”

Timmy was right there. “Yes, sir. I am sooo sorry and I do apologize again.”

I looked at the jacket for a minute and turned to Timmy and said very calmly and with complete control, “So…the jacket was bussed. It wasn’t that you might have forgotten to present the second bill at our table so to cover yourself you claimed that a customer skipped out without paying and, to ‘get back’ at said customer, the jacket was thrown away?”

He shook his head. He didn’t look shocked or offended or appalled. He looked guilty.

“You bussed the jacket?” I said, one more time.

“Yes, sir. I bussed the jacket.”

I looked him dead in the eyes for about 10 seconds and said, “I believe you.” I could see the relief flood over his face.

Mindy jumped right on in. “Like I said, sir, we’ll have this dry-cleaned and deliver it to you when it’s done. Let me just get your name and number.” She had a pen and paper ready. I gave her my information, thanked them and left.

Everyone knows what really happened. But we all accepted the ‘official’ story that the jacket got bussed with the dishes. Sure, I could have gotten angry and demanded that Timmy be fired. But, really, what would be the point? At the end of the day, L’s dad got a free meal and we got the jacket back in better condition than we had left it.

When you think about it, money is just really arbitrary. Here’s a sheet of paper. It has a 5 on it. That means you have 5 dollars. If it had a 10 on it, you’d have 10 dollars.

Why is it arbitrary? Because sometimes businesses will accept Canadian money. That’s not legal tender here in the U.S. of A. But they’ll accept it. Oh, they won’t accept all types, mind you. You couldn’t pay for anything with a Canadian bill. That’s just not right. But a Canadian dime? Or a Canadian quarter? Or penny? They have no problem accepting that.

Case in point. There is a Family Dollar close to where I work. I can get a 20 oz. Diet Coke for $1.15 there. That right there is a bargain with a capital B. But I found out a way to get it cheaper.

About a week or so ago, I picked up what I thought was a quarter from the parking lot of a local Target store. But it was a Canadian quarter. I was initially disappointed because the vending machines at work (and everywhere else for that matter) simply do no take Canadian. I was about to give it to my kid when I had the grand idea. I would see if I could use this to pay for a 20 oz. Diet Coke at the Fam-D (as I like to call it). So, I took a crisp one dollar bill and my Canadian quarter and went to get a Diet Coke. The cashier rang it up at $1.15, I gave her the dollar and the “quarter”, and I got a dime back. So, when all was said and done, I got me a 20 oz. Diet Coke for a grand total of 90 cents American.

As I said earlier, I probably couldn’t have done this with a Canadian dollar bill. But with the change, that’s a different story. Apparently, if it looks close enough to a quarter (or dime or penny), it will be accepted.

I HATE television shows that end with “To be continued…”

After spending approximately an hour going through the emotional ups and downs of the characters as they search for one of their friends who had been kidnapped by an elite criminal organization…and that friend is being tortured and about to be force fed raw chicken through a beer bong…there is nothing, I mean NOTHING, more frustrating than to read the words “…to be continued” on the bottom of the screen.

How’d my feeling about that come to be?

I was about 8 years old and we (my mom, dad, and I) were in Toledo, Ohio on our yearly visit with my mom’s relatives. There are 2 reasons I liked going to Toledo. I usually got to stay with my cousins at their house while my parents stayed at my grandmother’s house, and the show Ultraman was on TV in Toledo.

This one particular trip to Toledo was going to include a visit to Cedar Point Amusement Park on Friday, so I had to stay with my parents at my grandmother’s house. Thursday morning I watched Ultraman, as I had all week long. It was a really good episode, too. Ultraman was fighting some kind of monster and he lost his beta capsule. That’s the thing that gave Ultraman his power. So, Ultraman is getting weaker by the minute and the monster thing is really beating up on him. But, this little kid finds Ultraman’s beta capsule and runs to the battle. Ultraman is on the verge of collapsing when the kid shows up with the beta capsule and then….TO BE CONTINUED! This is high drama! It doesn’t get any better than this. I just have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow morning came, and my mom woke me up to get ready to go to Cedar Point. We were going to leave at 8am. But Ultraman didn’t come on until 10! I begged and I pleaded with my parents to let me watch Ultraman. We could leave at 10:30. But they wouldn’t hear of it. I started crying, screaming about how unfair the situation is. I was really upset. I wanted to see what was going to happen. Was it going to be the last episode of Ultraman? Or was he going to be saved? And how? These were questions that BEGGED to be answered. Finally, my parents told me that Ultraman would be at Cedar Point. Well, that’s all I needed to hear. I was ready to go. All the way to the park, I was thinking about seeing Ultraman. If I couldn’t see the episode, at least I could ask him what had happened. At the park, I kept asking where Ultraman was. I kept being told things like, “He’ll be here later” or “Let’s go through the mirror maze first.” But ya know what? Ultraman wasn’t there. I had been duped. And the worst part about it, in my 8 year old mind, was that I had missed Part 2 of the show. I didn’t get to see the end.

And that’s why I hate “to be continued.” I don’t want to risk being that disappointed again. Of course, I could just plan on being in front of my TV same bat-time, same bat-channel next week, but I don’t want to feel I’m being held hostage by a stupid TV show. So, I’ve generally stayed away from hour long dramas that have ongoing story-arcs. I know that, with the advent of TiVo and DVR’s, the disappointment factor has pretty much been addressed. But I still don’t want to invest that kind of time in an ongoing show such as “Northern Exposure,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

Just in case you feel pity for me for not ever having seen Part 2 of that Ultraman show, you should know that…a few years ago…a couple of good friends from work who were aware of this tragic childhood trauma of mine, called upon the Internet and the power of EBay and presented me with 4 DVD’s that include all 39 episodes of Ultraman. ALL 39! Yes, even PART 2! After almost 30 years, I was able to see how Ultraman survived, how he gets the Beta Capsule back, and how he defeated the monster and saved the day.

Several years ago when my daughter, S, was in third grade, her school had a technology fund raiser. These particular funds were raised by students selling items from the Sally Foster Catalog. Of course, there were incentives designed to motivate the students to sell. If a student collected X dollars, that student got to choose a prize from X level. If a student collected Y dollars, then that student chose a prize from Y level. S immediately saw what she wanted: A plastic coin-sorter slash bank in the shape of a combination lock. So, she sold what she needed to sell in order to meet the prize eligibility requirements.

A couple of weeks after the fundraiser was over, she picked up her prize. When I got home from work that day, she showed me how it worked and showed me how to do the combination. She was just so excited about it. About 8:00pm, her brother, Z, got hold of it and attempted to open it without using the combination. He succeeded, but broke it in the process. S was devastated. Cried and cried and cried. Now, S is a worry-wart. She frets and worries about things and works herself up to the point where she’s crying…usually about things that MIGHT happen tomorrow or next week. I knew that if I didn’t tell her something, she’d be up all night fighting back tears. So I told her that we’d take the sorter-slash-bank back to school, tell Mr. C (the guy who is in charge of the incentives) we discovered it was broken when we opened it, and ask if another could be ordered. This calmed her down and she was able to get a decent night’s sleep.

The next morning, I was thinking about it some more and, on our way to school, we talked about lying. I told her that I really really wanted her to have her sorter bank, because she worked so hard for it and it wasn’t fair that her brother broke it. But I also told her that I was afraid I would be teaching her a wrong lesson by lying about the circumstances of the damage in order to get what we want. What’s more, I told her that if we tell Mr. C that it was broken though carelessness, there’s a chance that he’d refuse to order another one because, hey, we didn’t take care of the one we had. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Dad, I know lying is wrong, but it’s just this one time.” Right away, my fears about her being taught a wrong lesson were solidified and it hit me like a hammer.

“Honey, is killing someone wrong?”

“Sure it is, Dad.”

“OK, but what if we did it just once? Just this one time?”

“No. Killing is wrong.”

“That’s right. So how is that any different from lying…just this once?”

“Because lying isn’t the same as killing someone. Besides, we’re talking about a plastic bank, not someone’s life.”

“True, but the idea is exactly the same. It’s wrong to lie/kill/steal/cheat, but it’s ok if we only do it just this one time. Does that sound right to you?”

“No.”

“So we’ll tell Mr. C the truth. That your brother broke it.”

“But what if he won’t order another one?”

“Then…we’ll kill your brother. Just this once. Honey, I don’t know what we’ll do. Maybe we’ll make Z give you his allowance until we can go buy another one on our own.”

We arrived at school and she went to her room, while I made my way to Mr. C’s office. I told him the truth about what happened, and asked if it were possible to get another one. He said, “Sure. I’ll return this one as “damaged upon receipt” and order a new one. Fill out this form and you’ll get it when it comes in.” I thanked him and left.

I remember how that got me thinking about the role that that lies play in our society. Clearly, there was no thought involved in Mr. C’s choice to mark the item “damaged upon receipt,” even though he knew that wasn’t that case. Just as there wasn’t any thought involved when I initially told S that we’d tell Mr. C that the sorter bank was broken when we got it. Reflexively, the instinct was to lie in order to get what we wanted. Lie to win. If lying is so ingrained…so indoctrinated into our culture…why is so much time and effort spent trying to tell children that lying is wrong? Aren’t they just going to grow up and make decisions about what’s “OK” to lie about and what isn’t anyway?