Saturday, January 15, 2011

Would You Like A Little Pepper With That?

When the boys were little, it wasn't very often that we would travel, especially by air.
So it was not surprising when we were constantly out of the loop when it came to airport security regulations; even berfore 9/11 and the subsequent Patriot Act gudelines that have many travelers up in arms right now.

The time my sister flew in to Southern California with a pocket knife in her carry-on went unnoticed. However, her return trip through the security checkpoint at Ontario International didn't go so well. We were pretty calm about it, no big deal. It was a cheap little knife she had won at a county fair and had forgotten about. But my sister was interrogated, all but cavity searched, and the knife confiscated with the promise of life-long record to haunt her at that airport.   I wonder, if nearly twenty years later do you think they still have my sister on file as a potential terrorist?

Strange how 10 years later when flying out of the same airport for a family emergency, my friend was allowed through with a stun gun !!! TSA didn't even know what it was !!! She tried explaining,  but they were clueless as to it's purpose. She was told that as long as it didn't have any sharp edges, she could continue through security to our waiting plane. Hmmmm.

A couple years earlier, I was not so fortunate when going through security. This was at a time in my life when I would be out and about in the community by myself, sometimes early in the morning to go to the gym, or late at night for a Chamber of Commerce function. My husband would stay home with the boys and he worried about my safety at these times, so he purchased a compact pepper spray unit that would conveniently attach to my key chain.

I carried the pepper spray for a year or two and was hardly aware of it's presence after a while. When Jim had a flight to see his brother in Texas, I drove him to the airport and was looking forward to accompanying him to his gate to see him off. But when I arrived at security, I wasn't allowed through due to the pepper spray on my key chain. I could surrender it, but I"d never get it back, and Jim had paid a pretty penny  for that pepper spray.  The car was parked too far away for me to go back to drop it off there.

SO, we said our goodbyes, reluctantly, at security and I sulked back to my car watching what I assumed was his plane take off and fly into the distance.

When he returned a week later, I was sure to take the pepper spray off of the key chain and place it under the driver's seat of my mini-van. I happily greeted Jim at the gate when his plane arrived and we settled back into our day-to-day lives when we returned home.

Fast forward....I don't know how long...weeks, maybe months, to a warm Spring day in our home town. Jim was at work and I was completing my daily routine of picking up/dropping off children at one school or another, shopping, cleaning, etc. It had been an exceptionally busy day and I had one more important task to complete before going home. I had to deposit Jim's paycheck.

Jim has not deposited his own paycheck in over 20 years. If he tried, I suspect the tellers wouldn't recognize "his" signature and give him the old stink-eye. So, just like every other payday over the past umpteen years, I drove to his work, made the joke that "I smelled money" and would collect thst paycheck so we could revel in the glory of having money in the bank for the next 48 hours!

On this particular day, the drive-up teller window was closed and I would have to go in to complete the deposit. Oh, how I had wished I had completed that task before I had all four boys in tow. Going anywhere with four kids is a challenge, but some places are especially challenging; banks being one of those places.

When I parked the car, the youngest son, 2 or 3 years of age, was asleep in his carseat. His older brother 5 or 6 at the time, was contentedly playing in his booster seat. The older boys were in the back of the van sharing out the trials and tribualtions of elementary school. I reasoned with myself that there was no reason I couldn't entrust the older boys to watch the younger ones for five minutes.

I delegated instructions and "who was in charge" directions and let the boys know that I would be right back and if everyone behaved, we'd go get ice cream when Mommy was done in the bank.

Now, just for the record, I do not encourage or support the notion of leaving children in a car...let's just say this was one of my lapses in judgement as a parent ( I'm sure my boys will tell you that there were plenty of lapses in judgement on my part...but I'm happy to report that I have yet to meet the perfect parent .. and they will have their "DUH" moments, too)

With my mini-van parked in front of the bank double slider doors, in full view, I stood in line at the bank to make my deposit. The line was moving at a snail's pace and I was constantly shifting to keep a close eye on the van. The patrons in front of and behind me had noticed my agitation and I had mentioned to them that I was nervous about how slow the line was moving because my children were in the car.

I would shift, I would watch, the line would slowly move..... no movement from the car. So far, so good.
Three more people...two more people...only one more person in front of me in line before it was my turn. This was going to happen!

I focused my attention on the tellers behind the counter, trying to ascertain who was going to finish up next so I could advance in line and get my long-awaited turn. And in those 20 seconds of summing up my surroundings, it hit me: the high pitched wails of screaming, screaching children!

I turned towards those double sliding doors to see all four of my children stumbling into the bank, slumped over each other, older boys carrying or leading the younger boys, crying, screaming, slobbering, spitting, snot flowing from thier noses all over the floor....

and I stood there in line....frozen....digesting this scene in it's entirety ... in disbelief... in fact, every adult in that bank was frozen,  wondering  what in the hell was going on!

I heard one of the older boys say he "didn't mean to"  .... another boy saying something about "under Mommy's seat" and I knew. I instantly remembered that I had forgotten my pepper spray under my seat. I had never put it back on my key chain.

I sighed, defeated...parenting fail # who-knows-what. I turned to the person behind me in line and let them know that they were now next in line. I pushed my way past the spectators to make my way to my  snotty, crying children to take them into the bathroom and wash off their faces to try to get them some relief.

Gallons of cold water later, and, I'm sure, a rampant meltdown by yours truly, we returned to the van to secure the pepper spray canister and roll down the windows to air out the van so we could go home.

Thankfully, they hadn't discharged a full spray, but the little amount they did let loose with was planty to make everyone unhappy.

In the end, all the boys were fine in an hour or two. They slept hard that night and years later I realized that the incident had prepared one of my boys for his stint in juvie where the pepper spray fills the air like Febreeze. Parenting Success to a certain degree!!! LOL

I guess the toughest part of this day, for the boys anyways, is the fact that they couldn't understand why they didn't get their ice cream. It's not that I didn't think it wouldn't make them feel better; or make me feel better for that matter. But I had no money !!! The toughest part for me, it was not getting that check in the bank and trying to explain the bounced check to the insurance company the next day... not everyone has a sense of humor or can understand life through the eyes of a mother. Penalties assessed without apologies or condolences.

When Jim got home that night, he looked at all of those red, swollen faces, he knew not to ask for an explanation. He simply shook his head and, as he often did, retreated to his happy place; the garage.

You know how they say that a certain percentage of  home owners who have a gun for protection often end up injuring themselves or those they were trying to protect. I wonder what that percentage is for pepper spray?


  1. Perhaps a life lesson for all those involved. Now four boys have been exposed to pepper spray, an experience most children do not experience.


  2. Perfection... It just does not exist. Parenting, who doesn't make mistakes? We don't get owners manuals, keys or even shut off switches!
    I suspect anyone who would complain about parents making mistakes has never been a parent...
    Lets just hope the boys learned a lesson not to touch what they don't know... But I'm sure they will : ) I sure did as a boy. Oh well, alright, at 58 I still mess up : )

  3. @ Ivan... I think the ironic thing about sharing some of these "parenting fails" is the fact that my boys are the ones who see/feel them most vividly.
    All but one are now young parents themselves and I know they will have their "parenting fails" and "parenting successes" along the way.
    But, like me, it might take them a while to own up to them and at least have the "courage" to go back and admit to them .. LOL

  4. My parents were perfect, yeah they made mistakes.