When your mama doesn’t bring you up right

The Armstrong family is incapable of going more than two days without someone coming down with an aggressive illness. Last week was one of the worst weeks ever for this, and just when I thought another sinus infection had cleared I came down with a stomach bug. And then Jon got the sinus infection. Which means he should get the stomach bug sometime tomorrow morning. Although his version will probably have a few symptoms that mine did not, like chronic moaning. Or is that just a symptom of being a man? I can never tell.

Friday morning I still wasn’t feeling a hundred percent, so I had Jon take Leta to school by himself. I also thought it would be a good chance to see if maybe my not being there would help her separation anxiety, so I sent the two of them out the door with my fingers crossed. I then turned toward the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee when the phone rang, and I noticed on the caller ID that it was Jon. Calling me from the driveway. A fact that totally warranted an eye roll, except I regularly call GEORGE! on his cell phone to tell him to turn down the television. When we’re in the same room.

So I see Jon’s name on the phone, and I’m thinking he’s calling because Leta has started crying. But at least she made it all the way to the car, right? This is good. This is progress. And when it comes to Leta I will take my victories where I can get them, and if they made a trophy for Making It Two Minutes Without A Total Meltdown, I’d buy her one to let her know that I appreciate how much hard work it took to get this far.

I answer the phone quickly and say, what’s going on? Is she okay? But oddly, I don’t hear any crying in the background. Instead, Jon says very grimly, “I need you to come outside right now.” And he won’t tell me why, and I get the feeling that he’s going to give me one of those very stern lectures about something I have not yet learned about life because I am an entire decade younger than he is. He’s using that tone of voice, like he’s totally exasperated about having to live with the burden of so much wisdom.

So I get outside and the first thing that I notice is a pile of junk sitting on the passenger seat, and Jon is just leaning over the steering wheel shaking his head.

“The iPod is gone,” he says.

And then I notice that the face plate to the car stereo is gone, a stereo not even four months old. And there’s a giant gash on the dashboard where the thief tried to pry it open to steal the whole stereo, tried and failed because you cannot get that stereo out of the car unless you dismantle the whole vehicle. We know this only because we lived with a broken radio for over a year until we could afford to have someone dismantle the car to replace it.

And the car is filled with papers and napkins and unrecognizable junk that has been tossed and strewn and discarded because it isn’t anything valuable. And it’s my fault because I forgot to lock the door the night before, although I am usually very good about making sure that the door is locked, mostly, although if you were to ask Jon about that right now the blood vessel across his forehead might explode. And then he’d fall over.

But now the iPod is gone and some stranger has touched all my things, and the one thing that bothers me more than anything else, the one thing that is even more wrong that the fact that someone stole my stuff? IS JUST HOW RUDE DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO TAKE THE FACE PLATE? There is no value in the face plate by itself, you have to have the whole stereo for it to work. In fact, you would actually have to put forth more effort to carry around a useless face plate than if you had just left it there in place, which means this person went out of his or her way to be a total douchebag.

And here at the end of that awful week, after days of nausea and sinus headaches and dropping off a screaming child, it’s those bad manners that piss me off the most. Like you couldn’t have been a kind thief and just made off with the iPod. You had to stick your wet finger in my ear and make it so that I can’t even listen to the radio, and I’m not often pushed to this point, but that one act of disrespect has so transformed me into my late Southern grandmother that instead of getting the face plate back I’d rather just stand in my driveway and throw rocks at cars. BECAUSE IT WOULD MAKE ME FEEL BETTER.