Monday, December 02, 2013

Kids are Kids Sometimes, No Matter Their Age

It's Monday morning, first day of school after a 9-day break for Madeleina, a junior in high school this year. She didn't want to go to school and had a variety of reasons: a 101 degree temperature, she felt sick, hadn't done her work over the break, needed to finish a song that will make her millions and she'll give me some if I just give her the day off to finish it.
    Madeleina is 16 going on 40 sometimes and other times she's 16 going on six. On the day after any three or more day weekend, and even moreso on the first day after an extended break, she typically gets ill. She swears it's legit. I swear she's been doing it since school got to be school in the 6th grade or so.
    So I insisted, won, brought her to school and told her I loved her as she left the car. She didn't say a word, just stormed off.
    I knew I'd get a call sooner or later, but didn't expect it so quickly: I'd hardly gotten home before the phone rang and it was the school nurse telling me that my beautiful daughter, Madeleina, was throwing up and I needed to come get her. I laughed, the nurse laughed. "Only happens to be the day after a holiday week, eh?" I asked. "Oh, don't worry, I've got several in here now, all sick and needing to go home. Post holiday sick day," she said.
    I picked Madeleina up and as she got into the car I told her there would be no television, no computer, no kindle and no music--unless she was practicing flute or piano--until 4 PM, when school normally lets out. "I wasn't even thinking that..." she began to protest. I told her I was glad to hear it. What she could do, I said, was clean the house, rake the front yard of leaves again--I just did it Friday but it's pretty full again after a couple of windy nights--read real books, study, finish cleaning her room--a three week project that's nearly done--or sleep. I know one thing she will not be doing: She will not throw up. She never throws up unless it's just before school or at school. She's got the technique down to a science.
    On the way home I picked up the mail. Two checks for about $400, good. Dropped off some mail: Sent out mapacho (Amazonian) cigarettes to a friend who needs some and paid a bill for Chepa, the wife/ex-wife who's broke right now.
    Got home, came inside. Madeleina didn't. She's sitting in the front seat of the truck, moping. Why bother to come in if you can't do anything you wanted to do with the extra day off? I'll let her sit as long as she likes. It's warm outside. But what I'm guessing she'll do is call her mom to come pick her up because she feels so sick. Chepa will arrive, scold me for being so cold to our daughter, then take Madeleina to her house where she'll get to watch television and listen to comedians on the computer all day.
    Madeleina does not know that I was 16 once too. I know every trick in the book. The difference was that I just walked out of school if I felt like cutting. I never tried to drag my parents into it. Different world today, but the same. And yes, I'd rather her cut by playing sick than cut to go to a friend's house and have sex and drugs. But that doesn't mean she can look me in the eye and ask me to believe her nonsense, either.
    Then there is Marco. He's 25-years-old now, going on 60 sometimes and going on 12 at other times. He hasn't worked in a couple of months because he lost his permanent resident card, and these days if you look hispanic, potential employers ask for that. Then his license expired. Then he lost his social security card. All essentially a valiant effort to prevent himself from getting a job.
    A few weeks ago he was desperate enough that he took on in a gas station that pays illegals to work off the books. Marco worked a week and the boss told him he always held onto the first paycheck to cover any employee theft. Okay. So Marco worked another week and asked for his money. They guy said he'd pay cash, $7 an hour, then told Marco he was owed for 40 hours. Marco said no, he'd worked 54 hours the second week and 31 the first week, so he was owed for 84 hours and the rate was $7.25 an hour, minimum wage at least. Marco was fired for speaking back. Then Marco unleashed a torrent on the gas station owner. The owner said that given Marco's attitude, he'd have to put Marco's money in escrow with the "committee" and that Marco could get it when he had all his papers in order.
    Marco called, told me the story, then asked about the committee. I said there was no such thing, that the boss probably figured he was an illegal and would be happy with the $280 he was offered, rather than the $616 he was owed.
    Marco asked me to help. I said I would. He called back in a few minutes, telling me to do nothing because his girlfriend works at the same station and he didn't want me to do anything that might jeopardize her job. I said okay.
    Couple of days later he called again and said he was going to collect his money on Saturday, a cople of days ago, and would I come with him. I said sure.
    We went, were steered to an overcrowded office and met the boss. I shook his hand, told him how great it was that his business was doing so well, and that I hoped we could clear things up quickly. The man started to talk about not trusting Marco because of what Marco had said during his torrent on the day he asked for his money. I said yup, he's got quite an angry streak, but that once he got paid, the man would never need to see him again and wouldn't that be a relief. The owner agreed. Then he had him write a paper saying he'd been paid in full and was owed nothing by the owner. Marco wrote what the man said and was about to sign it when I said: Okay, before he signs, and I'll sign on as a witness and let you copy my driver's license, he's got to get paid.
    The man grumbled, took out the time sheets did the calculations, came up with $616. He put it on the table. Marco signed. I signed, then let the man copy my driver's license and I signed that paper too. Then we picked up the money. It was good. I thanked him and we left.
    Outside, Marco said he wanted to scream at the guy, hit the guy, etc. I told him I'd learned a long time ago that you focus on getting what you need to get, then leave while you're ahead. No point in getting paid, then hitting the guy, then getting arrested for assault. Marco reluctantly said he understood.
    Kids are kids forever. I don't know if they ever really grow up all the way until their parents die and they have no choice. I hope I stay alive another 20 years because I don't really mind them being kids once in a while. I'm not always happy with them but I do always love them.

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