The Invasion Of The Trust Snatchers

My colleague Kristina is one hearty soul. Hardy, too. Following an intense morning, Kristina and I ventured out on our weekly errands. I was in a so-so mood. I've spent the weekday mornings shuttling back and forth between Children's Memorial Hospital and have a lot on my mind. Kristina was all sunshine. Bouncy pigtails, rosy cheeks and a contagious smile. At every destination she used the name of the staff-person helping us in an affirming sentence about the positive impact they were making on her morning. Who was impacting whose morning? After leaving our third destination, I joked that a little bluebird was going to come land on her shoulder and whistle her a tune. Funny- a man wandered, meandered really, through the parking lot at just that moment whistling like Thelonious Monk was present in his head. We laughed - she thought that I was trying to tell her that the man whistling was going to land on her shoulder, which would squish her, but she really enjoyed the promise of perhaps becoming a Snow, Cinderella, Aurora or even Ariel.

For the rest of the day I let her morning influence my outlook on everything and everyone. It was a glorious day. I had an afternoon date planned with my adorably entertaining son. I picked him up and went to Trader Joe's for a few dinner necessities and was enthralled with his tales of his analysis of the age of the Joker in the last Batman film (which he has not seen) based on overhearing the Joker's voice. (For the curious: he assessed the Joker as being 36 years old and thinks that if he had been 40 like, gasp, me, his voice would have been significantly deeper. His words.) On the way out of the store, not quite through the exit, the woman in front of me abruptly bent over. Rapt with my son's big brown eyes and curious tales, I waited politely for her to pick up or do whatever it was that brought her to the ground. But then I was pinned from behind by a very tall and, let's say thick, male...while she simultaneously stumbled back toward me. Again, trying to set a good example, I sweetly explained to the man behind me that there was a log-jam at the exit and that I was sorry for blocking his way. Hmm. No expression. Funny too that, for being Chicago, this guy wasn't irritated at all that the woman in front of me was still fumbling around for who knows what.

The fumble was mine. Oldest scam in the book, says my husband. My wallet was gone, and thanks to email and text alerts from one of my banks, I was able to instantaneously begin the anguishing process of figuring out what exactly they had made away with and locking down the flood gates that were apparently flowing freely around the Target on Peterson Ave. within 30 minutes of the squeeze-play. Hindsight, right? I knew at my core that something was off about the entire moment at store's exit, but I didn't, couldn't, wouldn't, take my attention off of the little guy that needed it most.

So back to Princess Kristina. She shoulders every ounce of everything else that needed my attention that afternoon- including having take-out dinner delivered to my house- and leaves me to make a zillion phone calls and start begging Driver's Services to believe that I am me so that I could make my rounds of the local banks and set everything right again with my identity. Which I think is now secure once again. And all of this is in the last 25.3 hours.

I know our heroine whistled while she worked. I didn't. I'm mad and sad and glad. I'm mad at myself for being so lazy with the location of my wallet. I'm sad that my son was exposed to a violating experience in a place that has become so familiar. I'm glad that it's been just a day and it's just about behind me. And I would whistle but I might get more wrinkles. I bounce between a calm recognition that no one can steal my happiness by lifting my wallet, and a commando consideration of busting into Target and demanding to see the security camera footage of this couple spending thousands of dollars in the matter of minutes and, damn it, why wasn't identification requested or the signatures compared when the total of each transaction was over $300 a pop?

Sigh. I am home safe. My family is about the house having their own fun. My family further afar was there for me when I needed to cry in private (in my car, via cell phone.) I have friends on their way over. It's all good.

But Dear Thieves- I hope you slept well last night on the high of your score. And I hope you sleep well tonight absolved of any guilt you have over making my son feel nervous about criminals out among us (no honey, they don't all look like cartoon criminals with a 5 o'clock shadow and a bag of cash.) And I hope you dance joyously to the 3 songs you were able to buy online. And I hope the screen on the TV you bought is really big and that you can afford the cable bill to go with it. Maybe you have kids and you brought a smile to their faces. Have a good night, Thieves. I'd say I'll see you around but I suspect we may not be headed for the same place. I'll be over here doing the best work I can for my family, my friends and my community. Maybe I'll even be able to help you someday.