Let me ask you something. Do you remember ever reading a column by Jim Schutze in which I said that I was a prince? Yes or no. Did I say that? Did I put myself up as some kind of knight in shining armor on a white horse? On a donkey even?
No. I never said that. I never made any kind of claim along those lines. So, yes, I have received many messages from you, from family, from neighbors and from total strangers since my wife got robbed last week on a grocery store parking lot near where we live. I have even received some messages from my wife. And I fully understand. Some of you think I’m not a prince.
Guess what? You’re right. I never said I was.
It was a serious incident. Shots were fired, not at my wife, but close enough. A Dallas ISD officer shot at the robber, who got away. Lots and lots of police were there, plus the helicopter, also the TV news.
But, look. There were other factors. Imagine that your wife gets her purse snatched. Just say. In her purse are her iPhone, multiple credit cards and checkbooks for accounts at two different banks, plus driver’s license, all kinds of identification. What is the first thing the thief is going to try to do? He’s going to try to bleed you dry in 15 minutes.
We’ll come back to that. But first, may I inject another factor at this point? The minute my son got a phone call from somebody at the grocery store saying his mother was in trouble, he left his job, rushed to her side and stayed with her, consoling her. He’s a fine young man. I would even call him a prince. That comes from his mother’s side. So, anyway, it’s not like nobody was there with her.
OK, one other factor. Why did he get a call and I didn’t? I did get calls. A bunch of them. But I didn’t recognize the numbers, so I didn’t answer them. One other factor. I was already on my phone at the time, in the middle of a very important interview.
All right, another factor: yes, it occurred to me when I saw the flurry of calls that something not very nice might have happened. But here’s another factor. It was a very important interview. I said that already. But the biggest factor was that I wasn’t sure I could get the guy I was interviewing back.
Listen, I probably don’t understand what you do for a living exactly, because I don’t do it. Are you able to extend me the kindness of supposing that you may not perfectly understand what I do for a living, either?
One of the messages I got a couple days after all this happened was from an old boss, a dear friend who wanted to know why I hadn’t put the interview on hold and checked out the incoming calls. I had to remind him that he was the one who told me 100 years ago about the ideal reporter.
The ideal reporter, he said, is a fairly intelligent person, maybe not a genius, with a plausible personality, but he or she tragically has a tiny bit of shrapnel lodged somewhere in the brain. Like a short circuit.
This small but persistent mental defect creates a certain tunnel vision toward accomplishing the task at hand. If deadline is coming up any time soon — which it was — then the tunnel vision is like looking out of the barrel of a BB gun. Again, I am not asking you to understand this, and I’m not making excuses for myself. Just saying.
Say, did I mention my wife is a reporter and if you try to talk to her when she’s on deadline she might throw pencils and even hardcover books at you? Something to be weighed.
All right, yes, during the several hours my wife was still at the grocery store being interviewed by police and later when she went downtown for more questions, I was at the bank. Banks, plural. As I say, my son, the prince, was at her side.
Yes, I did also have to dip by the house, because in order to shut down the credit cards effectively I actually needed to get on my computer. I know you probably know all about how to shut down your credit cards from your jet-ski or something and you have all kinds of great insider advice for me on how to do it without going home to my computer, which I greatly appreciate, but you’ll have to just take it from me. I had to go home and get on my computer.
Now, put yourself in my shoes. I’m at home. I’m on my computer. And the dogs show up at my knee, huffing, puffing, whining, rolling their eyes, slobbering, telling me I have missed their afternoon walk. What am I supposed to do? The dogs do not know how to put leashes on each other, let themselves out of the house, walk themselves and clean up after each other with plastic bags. I’ll let you know when they do.
So, yes, I did walk the dogs. My wife was at police headquarters at the time. I did talk to my son, the prince. He said everything was fine. He was cooling his heels in the lobby while she was upstairs giving a statement.
Of course he was cooling his heels. The cops aren’t going to invite the whole family up there. I know that. I’ve spent my entire adult life in and out of cop shops, and I know the routine. So if I had denied the dogs their walk and gone down there, I would have been cooling my heels in the lobby, too. What good does it do to have four heels cooling in the lobby instead of two?
In summing up my case, I think I have offered a fairly cogent and persuasive argument that I did all the right things. In order to protect my family’s financial well-being, I spent a couple hours going to banks and maybe an hour, max, on the computer at home. I walked the dogs, because they can’t walk themselves. And, yes, you’re right: I finished my interview. I did not stop to transcribe it, because, obviously, this was an emergency.
Just for grins, I tried all of these arguments out on my editor, Patrick Williams, and asked him what he thought. He said he thought I needed to do a groveling knee-walking apology for being an insensitive selfish ass. I didn’t say anything. It seemed to me that this was all getting just a wee bit personal all of a sudden. And anyway, I say all that to her every morning when I’m brushing my teeth.
There is one last factor here that I think is really important, something I may have hinted at already but perhaps not fully illuminated. Yes, my wife, as most people know her now, is a wonderful, warm, tenderhearted garden writer who tells stories about her backyard chickens that are all named for her hundreds of Texas aunts. People come up to us in the grocery store, sort of elbow me out of the way and say, “Oh, Mariana, is that poor dear little Aunt Ethel ever going to recover from crop impaction?”
But that’s not what she was when I met her. When I met her at the late Dallas Times Herald, she was a sharp-elbowed cop reporter, the one who typically got into the bar where the shootout had occurred while all the other reporters were still standing around outside behind the cordon looking like they were suffering from crop impaction. So we’re not exactly talking about a shrinking violet.
She fought this guy. I asked her why. How could she do that? She’s a senior citizen now. And a woman. This was a mean young man. She knows better than anybody what happens to people in these off-the-wall street confrontations. You can get whacked in the head and put in a convalescent hospital for the next six months. Or killed. I asked her why on earth she fought him. She stopped, looked away and actually seemed to be weighing what I said for a change. Then she looked back at me.
“He had my purse.”
Right. I do get that. And if he had tried to take her purse while she was on deadline, he’d be dead now.
The guy got the purse. We got all the cards shut off and the checking accounts killed or frozen. My son straightened his crown and went back to his throne to cast rose petals on the afflicted for the rest of the day. I transcribed my interview.
But, you know, living with a reporter, you have to be constantly vigilant for trick questions. Just when you think the coast is clear and you can relax, wham, out of left field a trick question whacks you in the head and puts you in a convalescent hospital.
She did ask if I had been down there that whole time in the lobby with the prince or if I had gone back by the house. I explained that I had to be gone for just a wee bit of time taking care of the bank accounts and the credit cards and stuff.* Then I asked her again quickly if she was really and truly all right. It seemed to wash.
And finally late that night it was almost lights out at last. Everything tidily washed up and put away. Time for the peace and solace that only deep slumber can bring. Heads on pillows.
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She muttered softly, “Gosh, did the poor dogs ever get out?”
“Oh, sure, I walked them this afternoon while you were downtown.”
DAMMIT! DAMMIT! Got me! Got me cold! Lying on my back with eyes wide like silver dollars, I was still asking myself at 2 in the morning how I could have walked into that one.
* I did say, "and stuff."