Friday, October 06, 2006

Me and The Fuller Brush Man

Me and The Fuller Brush Man
When my son was about 17 years old, he was working as a dishwasher at the Truckstop where I was also employed as assistant manager of the restaurant. He was supposed to be working to save enough money to buy himself his "first car" and he had managed to save up about $300 when my boss, the manager, informed me he had an old Honda that needed some work but he would sell it to the kid for $250.

I discussed this with my ex-brother-in-law - an auto mechanic by trade - and he said it appeared this would be a good deal for the kid. So, we bought the car.

Then, we had to figure out how to get it home from the parking lot at the restaurant to our house - a mere 30 miles distance - and the car had no inspection, no tags - no nothing, really!

This was resolved by riding to the truckstop in my brother-in-law's pickup truck and then, following behind him - very closely - as he would then drive the car to my house and park it in the old garage we had in the backyard at the time.

Fortunately, we made the trip to bring the car to its new home with no problems - no one got pulled over by the police for driving the buggy.

Once home, my brother-in-law drove it down our alley and parked it in the garage where my son could then begin to do what work he was capable of performing on it without his uncle's supervision.

However, a few weeks later - on the very same day that I had just completed taking my entrance exams for acceptance at the local state university - as I was driving home, meandering through our little village, I noticed the township police officer was on my tail and when I pulled up in front of our house, he pulled up right behind me.

I didn't think I had made any illegal maneuvers, hadn't been speeding either so naturally, I was wondering why he had followed me home.

As I got out of my car, to talk to the officer, my son came strolling - quite nonchalantly - up through the yard and as he did, I then noticed his car was parked in the middle of our backyard, not in the garage where it had been when I had left home earlier that day.

The police officer asked me if we had a silver Honda and I told him that my son had one. After that, he looked at the boy and told him "Son, we can do this two ways. The easy way or the hard way. Now, which one do you want?"

My son, never one to want anything difficult, said he would opt for the "easy way" at which the officer then said, "Let's go in the house then and discuss this matter."

I still didn't know what was wrong but I had this sinking suspicion it involved my son and his prized possession, that silver Honda so neatly parked in the middle of my back yard.

And yes, I was quite right too!

The office then informed me that my son had been observed and reported to the township police for having been driving the car on the roadway and that he had done this, not once, but twice!

By this time, my blood was beginning to boil.

First off, I was angry at my son for being such an idiot as to take a car that wasn't licensed, wasn't inspected, that we didn't even have the owner's papers transferred for it yet and also, that he had no driver's license of his own, for that matter, to be driving anything on the highways, much less this car!

Then, because our next door neighbor at that time also just happened to be a state policeman and he and his wife just happened to be waging a small personal war against me and my three kids, I figured that had to be who had called and reported the boy for this misdeed too.

Yep, I was ticked - mighty ticked!!!

The officer issued a citation to my son and on it was a date when - if we wanted it - there would be a hearing on this matter at the magistrate's office. His guilt - or innocence - would be determined there if we opted to have the hearing.

I knew darned well the boy was guilty as sin but I requested a hearing. Not as a means to try to get him off the hook, but I figured he would be getting a hefty fine and it would be up to me to cart his scrawny butt up to the magistrate's office to make the payments on this fine, so if I was going to have to make time in my schedule to do that, then the person who reported the kid was going to have to make time to show up for a hearing too! Tit for tat, you know!

Some state troopers I knew had told me they felt this was the best move for us to take too in the off chance that whoever had reported my son might decide not to attend the hearing and then the kid would get off scott free. That wasn't my plan as I said before, to try to get him off but I just wanted the person (or persons) who had done this to have to come forward. Since they couldn't have come and told me about the kid's misdeeds in the first place and give me a chance to talk to him, get him to realize that this was nothing to mess with, etc., I wanted them to have to show up.

The day of the hearing arrived and my son and I went into the magistrate's office and there sat the next-door-neighbor (state trooper) and his wife, as well as the township policeman. Yep! I had been right all along in my suspicions of who had turned the kid in.

The magistrate heard the officer's report and then asked me if my son or I had anything we wanted to add to all these procedures and I said, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do."

I explained, as nicely as I could, that I didn't request this hearing as a means to get the kid out of trouble because I knew he had broken the law, he knew he had done that too, and yes, he deserved to be punished.

I went on to say that in my opinion, the way this had been handled though was out of line. If the neighbor, the state trooper, had seen him drive the car, had given him a ticket then and there, I would have had no issue whatsoever in his doing that. However, the fact he had seen him do this not once, but twice, and had never tried to alert me to what the boy was doing, then I did have issues with that.

Because the state troper and his wife also had two small girls, I tried nicely to remind them that no matter what you try to teach your children, how much you try to impress on them the need to take the straight and narrow road, there are no guarantees in life that they will actually heed your advice when they get older.

They both then put their noses up in the air to me as if to say "Our sweet little girls will never do ANYTHING wrong, certainly nothing as drastic as to break the state's laws!" Yeah, right! Dream on folks!

The state trooper then told the magistrate that he had on several occasions attempted to talk to me but that each time he had come over to my house and rapped on the door, no one would respond.

At that, I made the comment that the only time I don't answer the door is either for one or two reasons: One - I didn't hear anyone knocking because most likely I may have been asleep or Two - if I thought it was the Fuller Brush Man, then I would hide and not answer the door.

As soon as I finished that statement a light bulb came on in my mind as I remembered that the magistrate's father also just happened to be the local Fuller Brush Man!

Ah, something I do oh, so well - open mouth and insert foot!

Fortunately though, the magistrate was a very fair-minded individual and upon inquiring as to my son's age (being 17 at the time) he recommended that I allow him to get his driver's license as soon as possible because it was quite evident to him that the boy really wanted to be able to drive legally. Yeah, that was evident to me too but one of my standard operating procedure rules with my kids was they couldn't get their driver's license until they had a vehicle of their own and could afford to pay their own insurance (on my policy).

The kid ended up with almost $400 in fines - a far cry from what the magistrate could have ordered for him. He could have been really obnoxious and ruled that the boy couldn't get his license until he was 21 years old if he had wanted to and he could have applied other fines to the kid as well.

So, for the next several months, all my son's earnings went to pay off this fine and it then took him almost a year before he was finally able to put money towards making the car road-worthy and usable for him to have his own vehicle and transportation to and from work!

Did the kid learn anything from all this? I hope he did, but at his age and where cars were concerned (same still applies 16 years down the road), he probably just figured it was the price he had to pay and he got off cheap, so in that respect, he won!

And as for me and my little lecture to the neighbors about what you teach your kids and how well they listen or apply it later in life, suffice it to say, apparently the older girl must have skipped a few lectures along the way as she wasn't quite the little miss perfect prim and prissy young lady in her late teens.

Ok, small comfort to me some might say - but it just proves my theory that "What goes around, comes around - not necessarily in the same manner, but it does it anyway!"

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