The best of intentions can lead us to hot water


Do you remember those old deals you would come across in magazines? Come on, you know the ones. You’d glue a penny to a paper card and, in return, you would receive 719 albums delivered to your home.

Yeah, those ads!

Oh, the glory that awaited you for the low, low price of one cent. I remember filling that card out half a dozen times, agonizing over which Bananarama or Mike & the Mechanics albums would best stand the test of time, then scouring the couch or washing machine for a penny that didn’t have too much gunk on it, so I could easily glue it to the card and await my musical booty in the mail.

I said, “musical booty.” That’s just funny. I mean, sure, I’m a heck of a dancer and...

But I digress.

My efforts to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime deal were constantly thwarted by my father.

“Just don’t do it,” he would say.

“But it’s one cent,” I would reply, with a tone bordering on the whiny side of things. “Surely, you don’t understand business. This is a great deal.”

“I do understand business, and stop calling me ‘Shirley,’” he would say, knowing that all references from the movie “Airplane!” would stop me dead in my tracks. “It’s not just one penny. You have to fill out a card every month just to tell them you don’t want that month’s album, and if you don’t send it back to them, you will get charged. Besides, read the whole thing. You have to buy more albums from them as part of the agreement.”

“I’m sending it in.”

“No, you’re not.”

And I didn’t.

Well, I should say that I didn’t when I tried the first few times. Eventually, I reached that magical age when I just knew I was more knowledgeable than my parents in every part of life, and I dropped off the card myself. Eventually, I got my free albums. And then another one the next month. And another.

Funny story: Eventually, a few years down the road, I got rejected for my first attempt at getting an apartment because my credit tanked from my once-in-a-lifetime deal. Actually, I shouldn’t blame the entire problem on that deal. In reality, my problem was that I didn’t follow up with it at all, just as my father had predicted, and the deal blew up in my face.

I wish I could say that was an isolated instance, but it was not. I also had issues returning VHS tapes I had rented from the local video store. What was supposed to be a $2 rental turned into a $75 late charge when I wouldn’t have the common sense to return a tape in a timely manner. Guess what a $75 late charge resulted in for young Darin when he didn’t have more than 11 cents on him at any given time?

Well, about $300 in free labor for my father, several weekends in a row in solitary confinement in Casa McCann and a punctured ear drum for getting yelled at for 37 hours straight, with a recurring theme centered on how hard it is to earn $75.

I guess I had it easy, at least compared to James Meyers Jr.

According to a story I stumbled across on nbcnews.com, Meyers was stopped by police in Concord, N.C., for a broken brake light while driving his 10-year-old daughter to school. Police reportedly discovered there was a warrant for Meyers’ arrest.

Meyers had not returned a VHS rental of the just-awful movie, “Freddy Got Fingered,” and he was now a wanted man. And, oh yeah, Meyers originally rented the film in 2002.

“I don’t remember ever owning it, renting it, or watching it,” said Meyers. “Really, anything from more than 10 years ago is a blur.”

Fortunately for Meyers, the police officers who came across his warrant did not view him as a genuine threat to society, and allowed him to drop his daughter off at school before he had to turn himself in at the station to be served with his warrant. But, still...

His attorney said Meyers could face a criminal record if the case isn’t dismissed, but the odds are good for him since the rental store is no longer in business and prosecutors would have to prove Meyers deliberately held on to the movie for 14 years. That seems like an easy case for Meyers to disprove.

“Did you purposely steal ‘Freddie Got Fingered’ from the rental store?”

“Have you seen ‘Freddie Got Fingered?’ Nobody would hang on to that for 14 years on purpose.”

I guess the good news is he won’t be getting sued for every penny he owns, what with the rental store being closed and all. And you know what you can get for a penny?