“Remember when the police called our house and said they had you in custody?” my mom asked the other day.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Not one of my finer moments.”
“But you were just trying to do something nice,” she consoled me.
And for the record, I wasn’t ACTUALLY in police custody. In fact, I was sitting at the dinner table, completely oblivious, as my mother said, “What?!” into the phone and then gave me an ominous look. Here’s the whole story:
I was fourteen and I’d just started grade 9. I was in the bathroom at school when two girls came in. I knew one of them—“Mary Jane” had been a neighbour a long time ago, and the last I’d heard, she’d gotten into some kind of mysterious “trouble” and had been sent to juvenile detention. She was tough-looking, and so was the girl she was with. But Mary Jane recognized me:
Mary Jane: Hey. How have you been?
Me: Good. How about you?
Mary Jane: Not bad. So my friend and I have a problem. We really need to get jobs and make some money because we’re homeless. But we don’t have any ID. If you loan us yours, we can get jobs at the Fall Fair and be able to afford a place to live.
Me: OK. Here you go.
Yep, I handed over my Social Insurance Card, my birth certificate, AND my library card to these two girls without a second thought. Unfortunately, as it turned out, they had both just escaped from the juvenile detention centre where they had been sentenced to live for various crimes. So they WERE technically homeless…At any rate, they used my ID to try and get jobs at the Fair, someone recognized them, and they were re-arrested. But the police were confused at first about the identity of the girl Mary Jane was with, hence the phone call to my house. And then I had to go down to the station to pick up my ID. Instead of a tongue-lashing by the cops though, I got this:
Police Officer: Are you OK? The girls said they really threatened you and made you give them your ID.
Me: What? No, they didn’t. I felt sorry for them, so I just gave it to them.
Police Officer: Seriously? Because they were looking at additional charges for threatening you.
Police Officer: Then we need to have a serious discussion about what you did.
Apparently, you shouldn’t give anyone, let alone fugitives from the law, your identification. Something about “aiding and abetting” was mentioned, but I don’t remember much else since I was crying at that point. Part of it was because I was scared sh*tless but it was mostly because I realized in that moment that I would NEVER be a badass. Nope, I didn’t have a real rebel bone in my body. And it’s remained true for the rest of my life that, whenever I did something reckless, I was either too worried to enjoy it, or I got caught, which always takes the fun out of being “devil may care”. Essentially, I am a Goodass. Here are some examples:
1) The only time I skipped class in high school happened to be on the day of Parents’ Night. I’d completely forgotten about that fact, and had spent a glorious hour in the girls’ bathroom with a couple of friends, gossiping and smoking (yes, I smoked as a teenager, but in true goodass fashion, I developed asthma, so no glamourous smoking rebel life for me—just a wheezy one). Anyway, my parents came home from Parents’ Night really pissed off:
Mom: Where were you today during Social Studies?
Me: In class, of course, why?
Dad: Mr. McMullen wondered how you were feeling, since you were ABSENT.
Me: What? Me? No, I sit at the back—he must not have seen me…
Mom: Nice try. You’re grounded.
2) When I was teaching high school, I decided one day that I was going to bring a comfy chair into my classroom. I put it on a dolly and was just bringing it into the building when the head custodian saw me.
Custodian: No upholstered furniture allowed! They cause lice!
Custodian: Take it away!
Well, I was pretty steamed, and baffled by her logic regarding the lice, so I waited until the next day, and when the coast seemed clear, I enlisted another younger staff member to help me get it on the elevator to take up to my room. We loaded it, all nervous and watchful, but there was no one around. We rode up to the fourth floor. Then the elevator doors opened, and there she was, like some kind of giant wizard, waving her arms around:
Custodian: I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor! You shall not pass!! Also, take that chair right back down, and don’t try to sneak it in again!!
Us: Yes, Gandalf.
Custodian: Fly, you fools.
3) A few years ago now, all the stores instituted a policy where you have to pay for grocery bags. But at the Zehr’s self-checkout, the machine asks you to indicate “how many bags you wish to purchase”. And so for years, I thought I was being a tiny bit of a badass by always indicating “0”, because frankly, I didn’t WISH to purchase ANY damn bags. I justified it by blaming Zehr’s for being semantically challenged. Then, a couple of weeks ago, a friend pointed out that Zehrs donates the money from the bags to charity, and now, instead of feeling like a rebel, I just feel guilty for depriving the children, and if they don’t get toys for Christmas, it will be all my fault. So now, I always pay for one more bag than I’m actually using to make up for it.
4) When I’m taking the train home from Toronto, I always have a glass of wine from the bar cart. It’s not particularly good wine, and it costs $7 for a very small glass, but still, it’s nice at the end of a long week to start early. A while ago, a friend at work gave everyone this new wine that came in cans. I tried it and it was actually pretty good, and not very expensive. “And the best part,” said my friend, “is that it looks just like a soda can so you could drink it on the train and no one would ever know!” So that Friday, I got on the train with my secret can of wine. Then the bar cart came:
Janet: The usual?
Me: No, I’m fine thanks.
Janet (confused): Are you sure you don’t want anything?
Me: Oh no, I’m good.
Janet: Hmmm. So you’re not feeling well. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.
(I call the conductor Janet because she looks and acts just like the character Janet in that TV show “The Good Place”, which is my new favourite comedy, and our conversations usually go like this:
Me: Can I get some wine?
Janet: OK! Here.)
Anyway, after she continued down the aisle, I surreptitiously opened my can of wine. But I couldn’t enjoy it for two reasons: first, the conductor kept coming by to check on me because apparently she thought I must be sick, so I had to keep hiding it, and second, they made the usual announcement about not having personal alcoholic beverages on the train, and I started obsessing that another passenger would see that the can said ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ and not ‘Sprite’, turn me in, and I would be forced off the train at Aldershot after having my sad wine can confiscated.
I suppose in the long run, being a goodass is better for me, because anytime I do something even mildly rebellious, I just worry, and it takes the fun out of it. Like whenever I’m at Starbucks and they insist on writing my name on the cup, I tell them it’s Bob. But the barista always gives me a dirty look, and then I feel bad, like I need to explain that I’m not mocking HIM, just his stupid store policy. The only time I truly embrace my badass side is when it comes to protecting the people I love. Once T’s Grade 1 teacher was mean to him and made him cry, so I confronted the jerk on the playground and tore him a new one. Then I sat in a comfy chair, smoked a cigarette, and drank canned wine that I had triple-bagged like a boss.