One night on the corner of my backwards meal journey from Yogurtland to Subway, a disheveled, gray-haired woman, the kind that most certainly has a bingo date planned in the coming days, approached me and my little posse and asked, “Do either of you smoke?” After we shook our heads no, she smiled politely and went back across the street.
“Do we look like we smoke?” I asked, starting to wonder how it goes through someone’s mind to ask someone else for a cigarette. Granted she didn’t outright ask us for a cigarette, but it was certainly implied. I also pondered how she completely ignored one-third of our trio, only questioning two of us about our smoking statuses. Anyway, my final thought on the woman was that at least she was pleasant about us not being able to supply her with a mid-evening, lung-damaging fix. She couldn’t get what she wanted from us, and she went about her merrily, braided-hair way. It’s not always like that.
As a child, my dad and I did a lot more than we did now. For example, he took me to the mall during the holiday shopping season one time, and I did the sensible thing and threw myself down an escalator. Or, we would do something as riveting as raking leaves. We even carved the occasional pumpkin every now and then when we were feeling it. Okay, so maybe now that I reflect upon it, we heavily did activities in the fall or that were fall-related. There was a time, however, when he took me to Kmart. He had to get fishing line, because everyone in western Pennsylvania goes fishing in the middle of January, right? No? I never did say my dad make perfect sense. None of us do, really. I will say, though, that he did thank the man who caught my escalator tumble.
We got the fishing line, and naturally I had to make a hot pit stop at the toy aisle. What kid didn’t make a natural progression to the toy aisle every single time they were in Kmart? If you didn’t, you were basically a child of misguided dreams and goals.
“Can I get this?” I asked. It was a toy CD player that played these fake little Disney discs that came with it. If it had Disney on it, I wanted it and I wanted it bad. Bad. Plus, as a kid, I didn’t understand what money was. Everything was free back then, except healthy eating and late-night prostitution. Those I naturally knew came with a price.
“No, not today,” said my dad.
Well this is a different approach to answering my petty pleas. I didn’t really know how to react to this kind of answer. I wasn’t a spoiled little brat, like you see so much nowadays, what with the magic of the iPhone and whatnot, but with my dad it was typically easy to get what I wanted. With my mom, it was a hell of a lot tougher and a lot of facial pouting had to occur in order to make a minuscule amount of progress. But with my father, who’s a quasi-Chevy Chase, I could hold up a bottle of tequila and he’d say, “If that’s what you want, then sure.”
“Please, daddy,” I begged. I normally didn’t call him “daddy,” I called him “dad.” But I didn’t know how to go about getting him to change his mind regarding this elegant Disney boom box, crafted by the finest of Chinese children.
“I said ‘no,’ Tyler. Now let’s go.”
“Daddy, please!” I had to put my soon-to-be-cancelled soap opera acting skills to good use. I started to cry.
“Your crying is not going to work. Come on, Tyler. We’re leaving now.”
He started to walk away and I had no option but to collapse to the ground and start seizing. Okay, I didn’t really go through the trials and tribulations of a seizure, but I did start screaming. Not because of the desire for the toy, but because Kmart’s floor was a lot colder than I had expected.
“Tyler, stop that right now.”
“I WANT THE TOYYYYYYYYYYYY!”
I didn’t really take notice to how I was acting, which was like an inmate from the next season of Orange Is the New Black being dragged to a prison cell without getting one last final snort of magic dust in. I didn’t have time to worry about how my public appearance was being thrown down the drain thanks to myself. I had to get the thing that played thirty seconds of “Under the Sea.”
My dad power-walked over to me and grabbed me by my flailing wrist and picked me up. He dragged my limp body all the way to the checkout, where he bought his fishing line, and then we went to the car. My tantrum had died down by now and people had stopped staring at me as if I were mentally ill, or the second coming of Christ.
We were halfway home when my dad broke his silence. “You will never do that again, do you hear me? That was embarrassing.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, wiping my tears on my puffy winter coat.
“It’s okay,” he said, and then rubbed my head.
In all honesty, my dad should’ve been pissed off with me. I made him look like a child abuser in a Kmart, which is an image I don’t think you can ever burn off. That wasn’t my intention, believe me. All I wanted was the toy, but that’s how it came off to every employee in the store, I think. It’s a damn good thing that that Kmart is now closed.
You can’t always get what you want. Ms. Smokestack clearly has taken a few lessons from the School of Rolling Stones. Well, she did start trying to snatch a tar stick from another lady once she crossed the street, but at least she’s a hit it and quit it kind of moocher. Oh, but I did end up getting that toy the next time I was in the store. The son-of-the-buyer’s remorse still sits in my stomach.