This week I feel as though I’m being tested. Yesterday I mentioned the accidents I get into whenever I’m in a rush. This week, single parenting has meant that I’ve been running from pillar to post, wreaking all kinds of havoc. Besides spilling soup all over Jade’s toys and tripping over computer cords, narrowly avoiding a broken nose, I had a run-in on Sunday that I really wanted to run away from.
I was doing errands with a cheerful but very tired Jade (since she hadn’t napped at all that afternoon) and decided to get a BBQ chicken from the Superstore in order to save myself cooking supper that night. There were no chickens left, but I still ended up picking up about $80 of groceries. In the dark and freezing parking lot, with suppertime looming and Jade practically asleep, I hurriedly installed Jade into her carseat, packed the groceries into the cloth bags I had forgotten in the car, and then went to return the grocery cart. I had to pass between my car and the one parked next to it and I remember thinking, "I’d better not hit that car" before the corner of the extra-large shopping cart clipped the edge of the car’s passenger side mirror.
I winced at the blow and the sound of cracking plastic. A closer look confirmed that a piece had broken right off, leaving an unsightly hole behind the intact mirror of the Chevy Impala.
I looked around. No one was there. No one had seen me. The owner of the car probably wouldn’t even notice the damage to the passenger side until days later. I could very easily have driven away, but for the weight of my conscience holding me back. Sighing, I found a piece of scrap paper in my purse, a pen, and scribbled out a note as best I could with half-frozen ink. I tucked the note under the windshield wiper and headed — carefully — home.
I got a call the next day from the owner of the Impala. He was very nice about the whole situation and kindly shopped around to find a good price on a replacement part. He also very generously offered to cover the cost of installing and painting the part if I covered the cost of buying it and shipping it from Grande Prairie($150). He didn’t even get annoyed when he came by the house to collect the cheque and I had to admit that I’d searched high and low and couldn’t find the chequebook.
I decided to go to Wal-Mart to use their cash machine and pick up some picture-hanging wire at the same time. I know there’s a fee for using those machines, but I didn’t want to try to park downtown and struggle into the bank with Jade in tow.
I put my card into the machine and requested a $150 withdrawal, only to be told the amount had to be a multiple of 20. I revised my request to $160 and then was told that there had been an error processing my request. Biting my tongue, I re-inserted the bank card for one last try. This time I got the $160 I requested… plus $20 more.
I didn’t quite know what to do. Does the machine actually belong to Wal-Mart? Does the money in there actually belong to them or to some independent company? Besides, even though the receipt said $160 (plus the $1.20 fee) I wanted to make sure that it was actually $160 that had come out of my bank account. I wrote down the toll-free number from the machine and headed home.
To be honest, I stewed about this for a couple of days. Having just come away from an experience where I got to bask in gooey feelings of righteousness and honesty, do I then turn around and pocket $20 that doesn’t belong to me? Or do I simply shrug my shoulders and decide this is my reward for being such a damned fine person?
What would you do?
Two contrasting stories come to mind. One is the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in Matthew 4:1-11. The other is one of my favourite short stories by Mark Twain: The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut .
Tomorrow: the conclusion