Shelter Me From Sheltered People’s Decisions

, , , , , | Friendly | January 25, 2019

(My husband and I are having lunch with his elderly parents and their friend at a small, family-owned Chinese restaurant. This restaurant is noted for using reusable chopsticks — more on that later in the story. The purpose of the lunch is for me to help their friend get her cable bill lowered. I have worked various call center and debt collection jobs over the years, so I am very good at negotiating with these companies. Although this friend is in her 60s, she has been very sheltered her entire life and doesn’t understand much about the world. Her husband also left her a very significant sum of money when he died.)

Me: *to friend* “All you have to do is tell the cable company that you are an elderly widow on a fixed income and that you are having a little bit of trouble paying the bill.”

Parents’ Friend: “But that is a lie! My mama always taught me that you tell the truth at all times!”

Me: “It’s not a lie: you are an elderly widow who is on a fixed income.”

Parents’ Friend: “But a white lie is still a lie!”

(The restaurant owner has brought out our food. My husband and I both ask for chopsticks because we spent a lot of time in Asia while he was in the military and we both love chopsticks. Much to our surprise, the in-law’s friend decides to ask for chopsticks.)

Me: “I didn’t know that you learned how to use chopsticks?”

Parents’ Friend: “No, I’m not going to eat with them; I want them to use as a pokey stick for a sewing project that I am working on.”

(The restaurant owner hands us the chopsticks.)

Me: “You know those are reusable…”

Parents’ Friend: “But I want them!”

Me: “Uh… no. I’m not going to let you steal from a restaurant that [Husband] and I go to all the time!”

Parents’ Friend: “But my sewing book says to use a chopstick to poke out the corner of a seam!”

Me: “You still can’t take them!” *this sheltered old lady looks like she is about to cry* “Anyway, how is taking something from a small business any different than telling a borderline white lie to one of the biggest cable television providers in America?”

(My mother-in-law, who I really don’t get along with, decides to pipe in.)

Mother-In-Law: “Why can’t you let [Friend] just take the chopsticks? You know she has depression!”

Me: “Yeah, and I have Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and ADD. So, your point is? Mental illness isn’t an excuse for stealing! Plus, if she has enough money to continue paying her cable bill, she definitely has enough money to go [Major Retailer] and buy one of those sticks for $5! I will not allow her to embarrass [Husband] and me at a restaurant that we go to all the time!”

Mother-In-Law: “But she needs it for sewing!”

Me: “And that matters why?”

(My mother-in-law then looked like she was about to cuss me out and stood up. I stood up also. My father-in-law decided to ask for the check and ushered his wife and their friend out of the restaurant. When my husband and I got out to the car, we both said that his parents’ friend shouldn’t be living independently because her decision-making is so poor.)

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