Friday, January 11, 2008

Death by absent-mindedness

My dad's home from the hospital and driving my mom crazy already. Oh, I guess he's not behaving too badly for a stubborn, 78-year-old man. However, the doctor doesn't want him to drive for the next couple of months until he's had a chance to adjust to his new blood pressure meds. You can imagine my dad's reaction to THAT advice. My mom and I have explained ad nauseum that these medications can cause dizziness and lightheadedness--not conditions you want to experience behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle, right? (Um, I don't know how much cars weigh, but "two-ton" is more euphonious than "800-pound" or whatever, so just go with it.) He's not eager to go back to the hospital anytime soon, so I suspect he's more willing to listen and follow instructions than he might be otherwise.


I certainly don't want my son to have to go to the hospital to make him more biddable, but he's going to send me to the loony bin if he doesn't stop acting like a senile, dotty old man. Daniel's always been a tad absent-minded, but when he was 6 and couldn't find his Lego pirate, it wasn't such a big deal. Now he's 18, and when he can't find his freaking cellphone, it's a slightly bigger deal. He lost the damn thing not once, not twice, but three times while he was home for Christmas. That's roughly once a week. One time he left it at his dad's, and his dad discovered it under the covers of Daniel's (unmade) bed.

Misplacing a cellphone, by itself, isn't that bad, I'll grant you, but here's a short list of other things he's misplaced or lost recently: He left his debit card at a game store in Indianapolis (when he was home for Thanksgiving), he left his iPod in a girl's car, he left a T-shirt at a friend's house, he lost the Purdue hat Kevin gave him for Christmas, and he lost his room key 5 minutes after he'd unlocked his dorm room Sunday when we were moving his stuff back in. (He finally found the key on his desk, but if you could see his desk, you'd understand how something could get lost on it.)

I've saved the worst for last. Sunday I'd taken him to the bookstore to get his books for the semester and used my card to buy them (400-something-dollars, yikes). Monday, he decided to change two classes, so on Wednesday, he took the books he no longer needed back to the bookstore to return them and buy books for his new classes. However, he couldn't get a refund unless the cashier had my card. Being the lovely, helpful person I am (and, of course, I had no objections to any excuse to drive up to Purdue to see Daniel), I agreed to come up Thursday after his botany lab. I pulled up to his dorm, and he came out looking upset. He got in the car and said, "Mom, I can't find the receipt."

People, I almost fainted. The books he was returning added up to $240! We searched his room: no receipt. I asked him where the bookstore bag was, and he said he threw it out, and then added, "Uh, I think the receipt was in the bag." And of course he threw the bag in the trashcan out in the hall that's emptied every night, not in the wastebasket in his room.

I was feeling slightly sick by this time, but I suggested we go to the bookstore anyway and see whether we could persuade the cashier to get a refund. Two of the books had "Used" stickers on them with the bookstore's name, so I thought there was a chance the cashier would believe the books came from there, not from another bookstore. The first cashier we approached--a harried-looking young woman--snapped "No receipt, no refund!" but grudgingly agreed to find the manager for us.

The manager, thank God, was a bookish, middle-aged man, and I'm very good with people of the bookish male persuasion. I'm not embarrassed at all to confess that I went into full-on Southern belle, sweet-talking mode. I flattered him shamelessly and flirted mildly. I threw my own son under the bus without a second thought and bemoaned his typical freshman carelessness, and the manager and I commiserated over the tribulations of dealing with college-age children. The whole time, however, I was thinking impatiently that this idiot had a computer record of my transaction and could easily pull it up, compare it to the number on my card, and verify the books against the record. Finally, I worked around to suggesting gently that he do just that. He pontificated about the unreliability of computer records and said condescendingly, "Well, you know technology is a wonderful thing--when it works." Christ on a biscuit, buddy. JUST GO LOOK. I swallowed my vitriol and smiled sweetly, however, and finally, finally he pulled up the damn record and lo and behold, found the transaction.

I managed to hang on to my smile until I had the new receipt in my hands and the refund credited to my card. The second we were done, however, I grabbed Daniel by the sleeve and marched him out of the store, hissing "And you hang onto THIS receipt, kiddo, or I'll come up here and wait outside your dorm, holding a hat and gloves and fretting over how my baby never dresses properly for the weather IN FRONT OF YOUR ROOMMATE AND FRIENDS."

That damn kid is going to kill me.