A few years ago we decided to install a fence at our old house because we had just adopted a dog. In order to do that the fence people had to cut back some branches from some of our trees. One of the fence guys knocked on the door and asked me if I had a chain saw. I didn’t. So, he said we should go rent one at the local hardware store. He wanted me to come with him, and he wanted me to drive.
I packed up the kids, ages 2 and 6, into the car with this guy I had never met before to go pick up a chainsaw. The moment I pulled out of the driveway in my Barbie striped minivan with the kids and, well, let’s just call him Jimbo, I realized this might not have been such a smart idea.
I decided to make a little conversation with Jimbo. The hardware store was close-by, but it would be a long ride if we all just sat there quietly.
“So,” I began, “have you worked for the fence company long?”
“I’ve been with them for a few months,” he replied. He seemed nice enough but I couldn’t help noticing he had a pierced tongue. Now, this was a few years ago and I hadn’t ever seen anyone up close and personal with a pierced tongue.
I figured Jimbo wouldn’t mind if I asked him about his pierced tongue. I mean don’t people pierce things and tattoo things so they’ll be noticed? If you don’t want your piercing or tattoo to be noticed, I would think they would be in a less obvious, and probably more painful, place.
“So,” I began meekly, “how long have you had your tongue pierced?”
‘Oh, about a year or so,” Jimbo said.
Veronica, the 6-year-old sat up a little as she began to become interested in the conversation. Lucas, the 2-year-old was fascinated by his own feet.
“Do you ever take it out?” I asked.
“Only when I was in prison,” Jimbo replied.
OH. MY. GOD.
Did he just say, “Only when I was in prison?” Was I really in my Barbie-striped minivan with Jimbo the ex-con with the pierced tongue and MY CHILDREN on our way to rent a chain saw from the hardware store? How would I be able to explain this to my mother? I decided I’d just never tell her. She knows now that she’s reading this, but she would never have known if she didn’t.
So, we pulled into the parking lot of the hardware store and I calmly parked the Barbie-striped minivan, removed Veronica from the back seat and took Lucas out of his car seat. I held on to them as we followed Jimbo inside.
We walked up to the rental counter and requested a chain saw. The man behind the counter asked if either of us knew how to use one. “No,” I replied. “Yeah,” Jimbo-the-ex-con-with-the-pierced-tongue-who-had-probably-just-been-released-from-prison-for-manslaughter-and-was-on-parole-and-probably-didn’t-have-a-valid-driver’s-license answered.
We rented the chain saw and got buckled up into the minivan again. I didn’t feel like making conversation on the way back. I was more concerned with just getting home safely and not so much about becoming friends with Jimbo or even being nice because I wanted him to like me. It’s a flaw. I know. I want people to like me. I’m a people pleaser. But this people pleaser was not about to be sawed into little pieces by Jimbo the ex-con. At the same time, I didn’t want him to not like me, because that would just be plain stupid.
We got home and I quickly got the kids out of the car and into the house. We didn’t go outside the rest of the day while Jimbo and the crew worked on the fence. I locked all the doors and put on a Barney tape. Even I watched it.
Jimbo came a-knocking at the door later that afternoon. I opened the door, but talked to him through the locked screen door. He said, “We’re done. We should go take the chain saw back.”
I looked at Jimbo and his pierced tongue and said, “You know what? I’ll take care of it later.”
“Ok,” Jimbo said. “I’ll see you later. Bye”
“Bye,” I said as I closed and locked the door. He’ll see me later? “Over my dead body,” I thought to myself. “Let me re-phrase that,” I thought to myself as I walked back into the family room to watch the end of the Barney tape. I’d return the chain saw later that day.
Better yet, I’d ask Richard to do it when he got home from work. I wanted to stay locked up in the house for the rest of the day with the kids watching Barney. Barney never talked about piercing your tongue or using chainsaws. He talked about sharing and caring and crap like that. But on that day, that was the best crap in the world to calm my nerves and take my mind off of Jimbo, who probably was a very nice ex-con-with-a-pierced-tongue.
I often wonder why I needed to go with Jimbo. Why didn’t the fence guys go get the chainsaw? Was it because they were ALL ex-cons who would probably pop up on the “Do not rent these guys chainsaws” register and didn’t have one valid driver’s license among them?
I’ll never know why I was needed to go to the hardware store with Jimbo. It doesn’t matter anyway because our new house already has a fence. If I ever need to get this fence repaired I would call another company. And the first thing I’d do is inspect all of their tongues. Then I’d ask to see valid driver’s licenses and send them on their way if instead of licenses they had ID cards from the Joliet Penitentiary.