Wednesday, June 20, 2007

True Confessions

Back when I started this blog, my priest suggested to me that the Internet was not a good place to make confessions. He said if I got to the point in my online journaling where I felt a confession coming on, to stop everything and give him a call. I suspect he has better things to do with his time than salve a wanna-be writer's savage soul. I'm going to blatantly ignore his advice and go right to the heart of the matter ... I think I'm a cleptomaniac.

Before I plead my case, however, let me tell you that I pride myself on honesty. I've told enough off-white untruths in my lifetime that one day, I said, "that's it, no more" and have rarely strayed from that personal moral boundary. Perhaps it is this deep-seated sense of telling the truth that is eating away at my conscience; it is the reason I need to get this petty thievery off my chest.

You know when you go to a doctor or dentist's office that there are magazines sitting on the table to look through while you wait? They are rarely new magazines. They are often years, not months old, have dog-eared pages and one can only imagine the number of infectious bugs that are lying in wait for the next host person to jump on so they can incubate. If it's June and the weather outside is a typical Florida hot with a 89% humidity, you can pretty well expect to pick up a magazine that has either Halloween costume ideas, or suggestions for what to do with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

I'm a sucker for women's magazines full of recipes and decorating redo's. I also look forward to going to my doctor's office, not so much for his skilled medical opinions, as for the fact that he has a subscription to Newsweek magazine and I let mine lapse. I found I was only reading two things in the whole magazine - "My Turn" and Anna Quinlen's essay on the last page. As I've mentioned before on this blog, the daily news stories depress me so I flip through the pages of Time and Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report, looking for, yet seldom finding, stories that make me smile.

But I digress. I have found recently that I seem to have little or no compunction whatsoever to 1) ripping out recipes 2) helping myself to coupons I'll probably never use 3) stealing whole articles because it's easier than trying to copy three pages of advertising and, as with most crimes that start small but soon escalate to more than one can handle 4) leaving the office with a particular magazine rolled in a tube and stuck in my purse as if it had been there all along.

I have a couple of excuses that sound reasonable to me. First of all, I feel like if a magazine is over a certain number of months old, nobody really cares if a page is missing, or a ragged square is torn out of the middle of an article on making Christmas gifts out of canning jars. Also, it is often clear that I am not alone in this aberrant behavior. If it is obvious a page has already been removed, I feel no remorse in continuing the destruction.

In my defense, if there is such a thing, if the reading matter in question is a Highlights Magazine, I NEVER circle the pictures on the Hidden Pictures page. I don't fill in the correct answers on the Reader's Digest Word Power Challenge (even though I rarely pass up this test of my vocabulary and am often pleasantly surprised at my score). And, I never take home a new magazine, new being a relative thing.

As a bit of an aside: Just like I don't enjoy having my breasts smashed to resemble IHOP pancakes, I don't like the idea of having to get a colonoscopy simply because I've reached a certain age. Suffice it to say, I don't alway like acting like a grown up, even when Katie Couric or my sweetie tell me there nothing to fear about this particular test but a little discomfort, discomfort being a relative thing. This may come as no surprise to some of you who know me, but often times my inner child rules my roost. My adult persona knows that things like mammograms and pelvic exams are simply things we have to attend to for our own good. My child persona, however, kicks and screams and throws a snit. She acts out and tears magazines before I am even aware of it.

Here's the problem. Not long ago, I was at the gastroenterologist's office. I did not want to be there and was feeling a tad bit pissy about it. As I waited for the doctor instead of making a list of ten good reasons NOT to get the test I was there to find out about, I thumbed through the March 2007, issue of Newsweek. Of course, thumbed through is just a euphamism for put it in my purse as I searched the office for hidden cameras and the magazine itself for some kind of alarming device. In the days since I have had the magazine in my possession, I can't for the life of me figure out what article was so important I couldn't just leave it there and, knowing there would surely be a next time, pick up where I left off on my return visit.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't take it just for the sake of taking it. I swear! Not only did I leave with the magazine in question, I brought it home and left the resulting evidence on the kitchen counter for what has now been two weeks. Never touching it, or incriminating myself in anyway. The Bonnie Anne MacDougal Conscience Meter, however, swings its red arcing needle into the "you should be ashamed" zone every time I walk by.

Bonnie Ann was a friend of my daughter when she was in elementary school. Bonnie's family was Mormon and there were kids in that family like stepping stones. Every year there was a new one. There were lots of hand-me-downs, runny noses and poopy diapers in that household. But there was also a good amount of love, loyalty and God-fearing morality.

One day the ice cream man drove through our cul-de-sac. As usual, kids came flying out of their respective houses with dollar bills flapping in the breeze. Like robots, the children bought their frozen treats, received their change, then made room for the next person in line. It was no different for Wendy once she got to the head of the queue. As luck would have it, she realized as she walked away that she had received an extra dime in change. Like all genuine Ellington's she undoubtedly thought she had hit the jackpot (a precursor to the real prize of her life). A dime is no great amount of money, but still, it was an unexpected windfall.

Then, she made a life-changing decision, not only for herself, but for me. She showed Bonnie Ann the dime and smiled at her good fortune, little expecting the reaction she got from her friend. It wasn't the amount in question, to Bonnie it could have been one cent or a hundred. What was most important to this child was the fact that it did not belong to Wendy and therefore needed to be returned to the ice cream vendor. Never mind that the guy had probably doubled the wholesale price of banana popcicles or was selling marijuana out of the back of the truck. Honest is as honest does.

So Wendy, both disheartened and a little embarrassed, went back, stood in line and turned the dime back over to it's rightful owner. I can't recall if the merchant was impressed by her integrity or not. But the story has remained a part of our family folk lore ever since. We don't wear plastic WWJD bracelets. Ours say, WWBAMDD?! It's a mantra that works better than fear of going to prison and being strip searched.

Having that magazine sit in my kitchen is akin to having a picture of Bonnie MacDougal, hands on hips, finger pointing, telling me to take it back to where I got it from. Bonnie Ann, wherever you are, I vow, from this day forward, to give up my sticky fingers and slight of hand ways. However, I'm not sure I can speak for my larcenous inner child!

Merry ME

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Clearly, you need to take the magazine back and confess your sin to your gastroenterologist.