February 15, 2009

Ode to a Mall Cop

So here's the problem I'm going to have moving forward. Most writers have life experiences to pull from for ideas. Some think up shit in the midst of a weekend meth bender. Others write about the chick who could do the splits while covered in nacho cheese. Some did hard time. Some without doing the crime. Some can rhyme. But those experiences differ from mine.

I can honestly say I've never consumed an illegal substance (did you catch that FBI Recruiter?), I haven't yet experimented with queso, I've had no run-ins with the law and some days my words don't even flow. You know? But I got's to get to the next paragraph yo.

All I do is win championships.

I'm not complaining about my quality of life here, that's not the point of this entry. So far I'm pretty fulfilled. My life may be vanilla, but I got chocolate skillz.

So where am I going to get my source material? Who knows. But I'm not short of ideas yet. I mentioned earlier that I've never been in trouble with the law, but I did have one close call. And if it weren't for the effort, wisdom and dedication of Mid Rivers Mall Security in St. Peters, Missouri back in 1994, I just might be living life on the unforgiving streets of Sugar Land today.

The Setting (for those of you with poor reading comprehension skills who missed this two sentences ago): Mid Rivers Mall, St. Peters, Missouri, 1994.

The Characters: 12-year-old Me naive of the dangers of white middle class suburban thug mentality, Mike, Mike's dad, and Mid Rivers Mall's finest.

Mike lived down the street from me in Lake St. Louis, Missouri. He's the kid my parents no doubt were most happy to get me away from when we moved to Texas. His entire family seemed odd to me at the time. Given that I was only 12 and picking up on weird family life vibes probably meant that they were one fucked up family. Hills Have Eyes-style. Mike was a year older than me and quickly becoming a terrifyingly bad influence on me. He was a pot-smoking straight-A student and had shoulder-length straggly hair that was shaved underneath. Remember that hair style? The one that was created when someone decided the rat tail wasn't white trash enough?

One of the most uncomfortable days of my childhood was the day I went canoeing with Mike and his dad. Somehow Mike's dad managed to say about 10 words over an 8-hour period while on a canoe in the middle of butt effing Missouri.

But anyways...

The Story: Mike's dad takes me and Mike to the mall because he has some Christmas shopping to do. We don't hit the road until after dark, so we don't have much time once we get to the mall.

Once there, Mike's dad sends us kids on our way so he can buy some things at Famous Barr (now Macy's). Me and Mike shop the mall like any pre-teen would. We hit Gadzook's (this was before it was gay), Spencer's and a couple of teeny bop stores until the mall starts shutting down. Well Famous Barr, being a department store and all, stays open an hour later than the rest of the mall. This being BCE (before the cell phone era), me and Mike use this time to walk the mall alone michieviously. By 9:15 this place is a ghost town. Looking for a cheap thrill, Mike and I climb over Santa's workshop and take a couple of the free sample cereal packs Santa gives away to any tike who waits 7 hours to take a picture with him.

I'm a little hungry so I pop open the Cocoa Puffs and start nibbling. We head up the second floor to check the scene and that's when reality bites. A flashlight shines on our backs and a voice yells, "Stop right there!" We look back to see 2 security guards holding flashlights like Horatio Crane on CSI Miami.

Given that the mall is empty and thinking that we haven't done anything wrong, we stop rather than take off running. Looking back on this, it's definitely possible these guys were totally fucking with us kids. God I hope so. Otherwise what transpired was the biggest abuse of power in the history of mankind.

You kids know the mall is closed right?

Yes sir. We're just waiting on my dad to finish shopping.

Where is he?

He's at Famous Barr. We're on our way to meet him now.

Son, what are you holding in your hand?

This is cereal from Santa's workshop.

Yep...you kids are gonna have to come with us.

The mall cops grab our shirts and walk us back to the bowels of the mall to Mall Security Headquarters. Our final destination is a well-lit room about 15x15 in size. The mall cops tell us to have a seat by the wall and begin questioning us like we killed their partner or something. The highlights of the interrogation went something like this (talking to me, not Mike)...

Let me ask you something, how much is that hat you're wearing?

I was wearing a fitted Michigan Wolverines hat backwards (it was trendy to like the Wolverines back in the day).

About 20 bucks.

So your parents can give you 20 bucks to spend on a ball cap but you don't have money to buy food. Is that right?

No sir. I have money to buy food...er...my parents do sir.

So why are you stealing cereal?

I have to admit, as a 12-year-old kid who had never been in trouble these fuckers had me rattled...

I don't know sir. Don't they give this out for free anyway?

That may be true but you still stole it...

It's at this point Lt. Dangle realizes I've been munching on Cocoa Puffs throughout the entire conversation. It's this fact that prompts him to make the statement that makes me re-evaluate life as a 12-year-old. It's this statement that singlehandedly keeps me away from life on the streets. It's stuck with me ever since. It makes me ponder...do I want a life on the streets, or do I want a life in a 4x4 cubicle selling cruises throughout my 20's? It's this statement that makes me see the answer to this question clearly...

Throw me those Cocoa Puffs, son. They don't belong to you.

Of course I want to work in a 4x4 cubicle. Who doesn't?

So long story relatively short because I'm tired of typing, the mall cops call my parents and get the answering machine and don't leave a message. My parents still don't know this ever happened. Mike's dad gets the story from the cops and says like 4 words about it on the way home. The cops say we could have gotten a Class C Misdemeanor, but shockingly no charges were filed. Probably because we stole something that was free. Is that really stealing?

Thankfully, the DA let us off easy.

Four years later, my high school economics class taught me why what I did was wrong. TINSTAAFB...

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Breakfast.


Lauren said...

Jay! You are hilarious!

Lynn said...

I will never look at Coco Puffs the same way again.