The Squiggly Line Between Good and Bad

I had a really weird Ah-ha! moment earlier this year.  Both hubby and I had obtained short-term contract work doing vegetation surveys in another state.  It was decent work and paid well.  Our crew-mates were good people, and the interpersonal drama that can easily occur in the work-together / live-together environment of natural resources crews was absent.  One day toward the end of our contract everybody was sitting on a riverbank for lunch, and somehow the subject of shoplifting came up.

“I’ve done it,” said one girl.  “When I was a kid I used to steal fruit roll-ups from the grocery store, because my mom wouldn’t buy them for my lunches.”

“I used to steal candy bars as a teenager,” said somebody else.

More stories surfaced.  A surprising number of people had shoplifted at some point in time.  Said another crewmate, “What do you think teenagers do when they hang out at the mall on weekends?”

I found the whole topic bemusing.  Everybody was so nonchalant about it.  I’m not perfect and I don’t always make the right decisions, but I self-police more than most.  I have a thriving guilt-complex, and can make myself feel bad over even minor misdeeds for years.  When I was in first grade I cheated on an easter egg hunt, and won one of the grand prizes: a beautiful windsock, with streamers and an American flag pattern.  I wasn’t caught, and none of my family or friends knew.  But the excitement of “getting away with something” was never there for me.  I hated that windsock every time I saw it and, eventually, I snuck it into a bag of my mom’s thrift store donations.

As a sixth grader I remember sitting in the library with two of my best friends.  My friend Myla had an obsession with “Harriet the Spy” in those days, and she kept a diary with her everywhere she went.  Diary really wasn’t really the right word for it.  The thing was a three ring binder, the really big kind that had a  two- or three- inch-thick spine.  It was fatter than all of my school notebooks put together.  On this particular day, Myla left me and our friend Denise in charge of the notebook while she went off to the bathroom or somewhere.  I don’t know why she thought this was a good idea, but actually, if it had been just me, the notebook would have remained untouched.  Of course the instant she was gone Denise said, “Let’s take a look!”

“Denise,” I said, “That’s private.  We really shouldn’t…”  But Denise was already opening the tome to a random page.  When Myla came back, I was the one who looked guilty.

One of my first jobs when I was older was working a concession stand at one of the local theaters.  The other cashiers liked to pour themselves soda from the fountain when our supervisor wasn’t around, even though we weren’t supposed to.  Soda was cheap, but it was still stealing in my eyes, and I didn’t want to get into trouble.  One day I said to my co-workers, “Look, you guys, I don’t feel right about this.  I wish you wouldn’t do this around me.”  They weren’t very happy with me, but they stopped.

I used to think that if life was a game of Dungeons and Dragons, I would be the Lawful Good character everybody finds so annoying.  Today I accept that side of myself, but I see the red and grey in things more.  The red tape of ridiculous rules and unwieldy systems.  The grey of complicated situations.  I am a rule follower, but I don’t believe in rules merely because they are rules.  This tip of the hat toward the dark side shows itself in an increased willingness to look at a situation and decide what I think is fair or reasonable, and a slight decrease in the amount of worry I feel when I veer away from the delineated path.

Today I am preparing to do something sneaky.  Although my conscience has permitted the act, I still feel an overwhelming urge to say, “I have to tell you all something, but shhhhhh….”

I’m preparing to tell lies on some paperwork for my dog.

Yep.  There it is.  I’ve said it.

The longer story here is, our Thanksgiving plans have changed.  The hubby and I were going to visit my immediates over the holiday, but a sudden outbreak of hand, foot, and mouth disease and the flu amongst my clan has meant that, for the safety of my baby, I’ve been told not to go.  Disappointing, but it’s worked out all right.  J and I are traveling elsewhere to visit some other family members instead.

It was only this weekend that I realized we didn’t have any plans for our dog over the holidays.  Where I feel fine assuming that my parents will accept anybody and anything I decide to bring along on a visit, including Ziggy, I can’t do that with most people.  And so, this Saturday, I started calling around to different kennels.  As a tip:  Don’t try to make boarding arrangements for your pets less than a week before one of the busiest travel times of the year.

I found a place with an opening eventually, although it’s going to cost as much as a cheap motel room to put Ziggy up each night.  I’m not new to the rules of dog boarding.  Usually this just involves bringing copies of Zig’s up-to-date immunizations when we drop her off.  I was a little blown away, however, by the seven pages of application forms required for this place.  They want to know all kinds of stuff, including other places we’ve boarded our dog, what known commands she responds to, what dog classes she has taken, and what her typical bedtime is.  They also have a whole sheet that must be filled out by my veterinarian, proving that she has been thoroughly examined for skeletal, skin, eye, teeth and ear issues, and has had a fecal test done no more than two weeks prior to her first visit.  Good grief.

My local vet’s office had no open appointments when I called, but said they’d work to fit me in between appointments.  The poo sample I have little choice about, since I need to be able to show the kennel the test results.  The rest of the stuff?  I was about to just bring Zig in and go through the whole bit, but general wellness examinations at my vet cost $50 a pop, which, in the normal world of kenneling dogs, is enough money for me to put Ziggy up at a decent place for three days.  Then the fecal testing is just over $30.  And all this is before even taking her to the kennel.  This morning I felt my resistance to the idea growing.  Really?  I kept saying to myself.  Really you guys?  After ranting mentally at the ridiculous application form for a few minutes, telling it in detail how obsessively I take care of my dog, and how frequently she has her vet check-ups anyway (her last exam was only three months ago), I realized that something needs to be done.  A stand needs to be made.  Paperwork — dare I say it? — needs to be fudged.

One has to draw the line somewhere.

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