I returned merchandise when I was young. That was my thing. Past 30 days, without a receipt, with no packaging, I was successful at taking things back.

Target was my favorite store. Their return policy was generous. My identification was innocence and white. My teeth were more crooked, my hair was blonder.

It started with a cordless phone. I was ten when I got one for my room. It didn’t come with everything. I wanted a new one. I waited in line by myself and Target exchanged it for me.

I became comfortable at the counter, and returned Gameboys games, electronic organizers, house fans, and watches I had. I got cash back and store credit. I was confident then, and became fearless at the customer service desk.

My dad doesn’t follow instructions like this. He can over react. Things break and words fly. When he wanted to watch TV without paying for it, he tried to install a coaxial cable to the antenna on the roof. He figured he could, so he bought the cable from the RadioShack up the street. He screwed one end of the cable to the TV. And on the roof, he forced the other into something wasn’t supposed to. He forced it. That paper clip wire inside got mangled to a curly cue, and then it broke off. Words dropped from the roof, and there was more yelling back inside. He asked me to return it for him, and said I could keep the money.

We grew up with RadioShack toys. I had a remote control 4X4 Big Foot. Rechargeable batteries. My brother and I had headphones, a boombox, a Walkman, handheld games, and all with batteries. The nice old lady that manages the franchise worked there a career. She was a pro, taking my information, my phone number. I had the receipt but she wanted the story.

I mentioned that the cable was too short and the wrong color. She wanted to talk to my father, so she dialed the number I gave her. I watched and waited. Dad picked up, and she asked him what happened. She held the phone for me to hear my father on the other end of the line.

The words, “my son, stupid as he is,” have long been quoted in the retelling this story. There was no mention of his faulty installation practices, or Dad’s lack of coaxial understanding.

I got the cash back. My dad called Jones Intercable, and had them install cable. It was immediately canceled when he noticed he could use their cable for the antenna, and my home didn’t have pay-TV again until I was in college, when my grandparents moved in.