She was standing there on the sidewalk with her back to the line of cars, we were stopped at the signal light and about three cars back from the intersection. Where the construction was last week? That is the spot. Remember how there are all those rose bushes right there? The miniature red ones? Yeah, those. This woman was doing something to them, not sure what, but Short and I were beyond curious.I stared at her, trying to figure out what exactly she was doing. She had two white plastic bags with her, like grocery bags, that kind. She was putting something into the bags. At first, I willed myself into thinking that she was picking up trash to make the roses look better, getting rid of any abandoned cigarette butts or stray gum wrappers. I kept watching. I knew what she was really doing, of course I knew at this point, but I willed myself to believe that she was not doing what I suspected.
Oh, you still don’t know? Really? Well, here is a hint, and this is what cemented it for me: she had scissors in her hand.Yep, she was cutting the roses.
Does she work for the City? Is that what you just said? Are you kidding me? Ha! No.So of course Short was seeing this whole thing play out and he was mesmerized because he had no idea that people were allowed to just help themselves to public property like that. He said, his tone full of wonder, “Mommy, what is that lady doing?”
And I had to tell the truth, there was no getting around it. I said, “She is stealing the flowers.”The car got very quiet, well it was already pretty quiet, but it got even more quiet and I could tell that Short was waiting for me to take action, to be a role model. He was waiting for me to do something. I was also waiting for myself to do something. I was wondering what I would do. And all the while in the back recesses of my brain, I was realizing that the signal light could turn green at any second and I would have to drive.
What should I do?I rolled down the passenger window. I heard a loud firm voice, which turned out to be my own, yell out, “Hey! Why are you cutting those flowers?”
She heard me, how could she not, and she froze. Then she turned around and for the first time, I could see her face. She was young, about 22. She was beautiful, too.She flashed me a gorgeous cover-model magazine grin, and before she even said what she said, which she had obviously rehearsed just in case some busy-body nosy person like me, or perhaps a policeman, stopped her, it was painfully clear to me that she uses that awesome smile to get whatever she wants in life, including free roses.
She said in perfect English with no trace of an accent …Wait for it …
“They’re for Buddha.”This, as you can imagine, did throw me off for about two seconds, it was not really the explanation that I was anticipating. Actually, I have no idea what I had expected her to say, but it wasn’t that.
I spoke again: “I don’t care who they’re for, that is stealing! Stop stealing! Those flowers are for everyone to enjoy. That is public property. You should go buy your own flowers.”I knew in this moment that she thought I was some ignorant person who does not know who Buddha is, her God. The way I said I don’t care who they’re for was as if she had told me a random person’s name, like the name of her brother or her ill grandmother.
She considered this for a moment, and then she replied, “Okay, I’m sorry. I’ll stop.” Her words had a sliver of sincerity to them.I continued my rant anyway, because I am never satisfied even when someone admits they're wrong. “You know you are wrong! You know you are! Stop stealing!” I yelled out again.
She walked in the opposite direction, back toward the gas station on the other corner, and for a moment I thought she might be brazen enough to keep clipping some roses or at least write down my license plate number and try to stab my tires later with her sharp scissors.I put Short on patrol. “Can you see her still?” I asked him. “Is she cutting more flowers?”
“No, Mommy, she’s walking away now.”So the light finally clicked green, it is a long light, isn’t it? And then we drove on. The instant replay section of my brain showed the cutting roses scene over and over and over again. I was second-guessing myself, writing a new script. What should I have said differently?
“Buddha does not want you to steal!”“Buddha made those flowers for everyone, not just you!”
“Buddha hates thieves!”I know, you’re right, I guess I handled it relatively well after all. If I had done nothing, I would be kicking myself later. Oh, and guess what? When we got to the game and Short and I were walking out to the field where The Husband and Tall were already practicing, Short looked right up at me and said with confidence,
“Mommy, when we see somebody stealing, we tell them to stop.”MOV