So then…he whispers into the phone, “I’ll bring the package to you, but you must bring cash.”
“OK, OK,” I say. “But dude, why are you whispering?”
Pause. “I don’t want my boss to hear me.”
“Oh, right, right,” I agree. “Definitely don’t tell your boss.”
At this, my 10-year-old daughter Chloe lifts her head and looks at me quizzically. I wave her off and go back to my clandestine meeting arrangements.
“So I’ll meet you tomorrow at 2:00,” he whispers.
“OK, great,” I say. “My address is-”
“MOM!!” Chloe shouts.
“Hang on,” I say into the phone, and put him on hold. I turn to Chloe and ask, “What, what?”
She jumps up and comes over. “Mom, you can’t give that guy your HOME address! That’s not safe! You said never give out our home address! You don’t even know this guy! He could be a murderer!”
Hmm. She’s right, of course. I have told her and her brother Tucker never to give out our home address to strangers.
So I say, “Yes, you’re right. But he’s driving all the way down here so I need to meet him somewhere. How about Barnes & Noble — will that make you feel better?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she says reluctantly.
So I hop on the phone and “arrange the meet.”
Chloe grills me about this top secret meeting. So I confide in her:
“Look, I’ve searched high and low for a pair of purple and black checkered Vans sneakers your brother desperately wants for his birthday. But they discontinued that style and I can’t get them in the stores or online. But I found a Vans outlet that has ONE PAIR left in his size, but they aren’t allowed to ship from there – you have to GO to the outlet – and it’s 2 hours away!”
“Can’t he just pick a different style?” she asks.
“Have you met your brother?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah, right,” she replies.
“And with work being so busy this week, I just don’t have time to make a 4-hour roundtrip to drive to the outlet to get the shoes. But this super nice guy named Dylan who works there offered to buy the shoes himself, then drive them here, and then go hang out in LA for the night to go see some friends. He said if I reimbursed him for the shoes and gas money, he’d make the trip so I could have the shoes in time for Tucker’s birthday! Isn’t that great?”
“But what if he’s a murderer!?”
(Honestly, what is with this kid? Is she watching Law & Order behind my back?)
“Chloe, what are the chances that the guy who just happens to answer the phone at the Vans outlet is a murderer waiting for someone to call with a desperate need for a birthday gift for a style of shoe that they have only one pair left in that size?”
“How do you know they only have one pair left? How do you know they can’t ship from there?” she asks.
“Well…Dylan told me.”
She shoots me a look like: “Exactly.”
Omigod, I’m raising a master criminal. I hadn’t even thought of that.
I reassure her that I’ll be safe at the “public meet.”
But the next day, when I slink over to Barnes and Noble at the appointed time by myself, Chloe’s trepidation has clearly influenced me. I hover nervously near the cash registers, on the look-out for Dylan (if that’s his real name).
I walk over to the little Starbucks café in the corner of the store and pull up a chair. My cell phone rings.
“Are you alone?” asks Dylan.
Omigod, that’s an ominous question!
I stammer, “Um, no, NO, I’m NOT alone. My uhh husband is here with me.”
“Oh,” he says. “I thought it was you sitting alone at a Starbucks table ‘cause you said you’d be in a blue sweater, but I guess that’s someone else. Where are you?”
Ohhhhh. He meant “are you SITTING alone” so I can identify you – NOT “ARE YOU ALONE” so that I can kidnap you, skin you, and make a human suit from your flesh.
“Oh, um, yeah, that IS me, sitting at Starbucks,” I babble. “My um husband is uhh elsewhere. In the store! Definitely in the store. Um looking at books. Sports books.”
Omigod, I’m giving too much detail. He’s gonna know I’m lying!
“I’m coming down the escalator,” he says. “My friend is up here looking at stuff. I’ll be right down.”
I look up to see Dylan (still not sure if it’s the real name) on the escalator – black jacket, late 20s, tall, longish brown hair. (Giving you the description in case I disappear so you can alert the authorities.)
As he approaches holding the shoe box, I wonder about his friend who was staying upstairs to “look at stuff.” Who is this friend? He didn’t say anything about bringing a friend. And why isn’t the friend coming down to meet me? Is he deliberately ensuring I can’t identity his face when the two of them secretly follow me from Barnes and Noble back to my house to kill and cook me?
Or…did Dylan just make up a pretend friend in the store, just like I pretended my husband was here too? Is it possible that Dylan is afraid of ME? Were his friends saying, “What? You’re gonna drive 2 hours to meet some crazy lady who’s promised you cash? What if she’s a psycho? What if we never see you again? What would we tell the police? All we know is Barnes & Noble, blue sweater, and Darcy (if that’s her real name).”
He sits down and slides the shoe box across the table. I slide the envelope of cash toward him.
We both inspect the contents of our respective packages. I’m suddenly feeling all Sopranos-y.
I’m wondering what passersby must think of this little transaction. (Totally looks like a drug buy. Suburban mama gettin’ her fix from her long-haired dealer.)
I want to stand up and loudly explain to everyone about the purple sneakers birthday gift.
But I decide it’s way cooler to look all mysterious.
I thank Dylan profusely for making the trip down with the beloved shoes. I tell him the cash covers the merchandise, gas money, and some extra for him to enjoy his night out in LA (presumably with the “friend”) – (who we’re still not sure is real or imaginary.)
I’m truly grateful he’s made the trip – I would’ve happily paid overnight shipping fees to get the shoes on time for the birthday – so gas money and a little bonus are a fair deal.
In fact, I’m so overcome with gratitude — and he seems like such a nice guy, I actually HUG him when we part.
I can just imagine the other Starbucks patrons thinking, “Ah, how sweet — that suburban junkie mama really loves her dealer.”
— Darcy Perdu
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(Anything odd you’ve done to ensure you got the birthday/Christmas gift you simply HAD to have for someone? Ever meet a stranger to exchange cash for goods or services? (Check the statute of limitations before you answer that.) Share any funny tales about shoes, gifts, or feeling like a super secret agent in the Comments!)