Part of our weekend ritual for many years was going to the mall. Bailey loves movies, and loves to watch them in the theatre. His favourite genre is horror–the scarier and more graphic, the better. We’d go to the food court for lunch, then head to the theatre.
When I first started working with Bailey, he was much more independent than he is now. We’d settle into our seats and then Bailey would decide to go to the concession stand; he’d come back with a diet pop the size of a small trailer. Sometimes he’d have popcorn. As anyone who’s ever bought anything from a theatre concession stand knows, the price gouging is staggering. I was perplexed about how Bailey was paying for this stuff. He always had the same amount of money on him after he returned as he did before he left.
After a few weeks of this mystery, I put on my detective hat and decided I’d follow him out to the concession stand and observe from a distance. He pointed to the pop size he wanted and when the teenage girl behind the counter filled up the cup, he nodded to her in his most charming way. But then when it came time to pay, he put out his hands in a gesture that clearly indicated he had no money. The girl smiled and passed him the pop. Without him paying. Holy shit.
At this point I intervened.
“Excuse me, ” I asked, “Is he not paying for this drink?”
“That’s okay,” said the girl, with a beatific smile. “He doesn’t have any money,” she explained. Like this was a service the theater provided for people who were indigent.
“No, ” I said emphatically. “This is not happening. He is not taking this without paying.” I slid the drink back toward her.
I looked at Bailey, who was equal parts mad and embarrassed.
“You can’t buy drinks and food if you have no money, Bailey. The girl has to pay for that out of her own money and that’s not fair.”
“It wasn’t me. It was somebody else,” he said. This was his catch-all statement for any time he was caught doing something he shouldn’t.
I told the girl behind the counter not to give Bailey anything if he had no money. I assured her that he could pay for these items and he should pay just like any other customer.
We returned to the theatre sans pop as he stubbornly refused to pay. He was pissed, and in fact he was so mad at me he sat on the other side of the theatre for the whole movie.
“Are you serious?” I called to him as he marched up the aisle and over to the side gallery. “Oh my God, you’re being ridiculous.” He ignored me and mumbled some–I’m sure–not very nice things about me.
“Okay,” I said. “Suit yourself.” And we watched the movie.
When it was over Bailey came over to me and gave me a hug, looking up at me. “Buddy, I’m sorry, okay?”
Jesus, this man could melt my heart in an instant.
“Yes, buddy, we’re good.”
We had a great rest of the day but the Bailey Hustle was no more. And though I know what he did was wrong, a part of me really admired his survival skills. I was reassured in knowing that if the shit ever hit the fan, Bailey was gonna be just fine.