Hugh Grant just gave me a great idea. He made a public appeal for the return of a bag stolen from his car. That made me realize I needed to make a similar public appeal. See, I had a bag snatched from my car around the same time as Grant. But unlike the British actor, I’m not asking the thief to return it. I’m asking that he put it to good use.

I have an inkling this perpetrator is no ordinary thief. An ordinary thief would have taken the Lilly Pulitzer tote bag right next to the bag he stole. It was stuffed with the blouse, skirt and pumps I’d changed out of to ride my bike, along with the running shorts, singlet, socks and bra still damp from my run that morning. An ordinary thief also would have made off with the leather Isaac Mizrahi handbag I bought for $10 in a thrift store. I’d removed my wallet, cell phone and glasses before heading out on the bike, but he had no way of knowing that. This burglar even passed up the neoprene lunch bag with three empty glass containers, cloth napkin, fork, spoon and adorable plastic penguin that keeps everything cold. What he did take was the goods I use to substitute teach. Evidently, he was drawn by the school-district badge I had below the dash. After smashing the window and grabbing the badge, he must have spotted the paraphernalia poking out of my flimsy cloth sub bag. Maybe it was the “Hello My Name Is” tags that caught his eye. Or perhaps the chime, with wooden mallet, that works like magic getting students’ attention, at least the first time I ring it. If he’s the low-tech type, he might have been taken by the vacuum-mount, hand-cranked pencil sharpener. Whatever caught his fancy, he clearly wanted nothing more than to substitute teach.


So, dear thief, I commend you on your enthusiasm for such a selfless career. You’ll surely be an asset to the school district. God knows they’re desperate for subs. With my badge and bag, you’ve got everything you’ll need to have what teachers call an “authentic experience.” To get you started, I’d like to offer a few tips.

First, you’ll need to wear my photo I.D. But don’t worry that you don’t look like the 61-year-old woman on the badge. With teachers out every day with colds, flu, nervous breakdowns, administrators overlook such minutiae when a willing sub shows up.  (Of course I know you actually could be a 61-year-old woman. Sentence me to sensitivity training if my ageist and sexist assumption is wrong.)

Start your day by removing the whistle from my lanyard and giving it to the rowdiest student in your class. Offer the chime and mallet to an equally boisterous child. Hand out a “Hello My Name Is” sticker to every student in the room. Instruct them to fill in the blank with whatever they would like to be called. To encourage their creativity, emblazon the name sticker on your chest with something silly such as Mr. P. Brayne. Urge your students to use the pencil sharpener. Explain that the sharper the point, the easier it is to embed in ceiling tiles and human flesh.

Now that your students are — as teachers like to put it — engaged, bury your nose in a book until the bell rings.

Seven hours of that should be more than enough hard time to keep you from smashing and grabbing again. I wish I could get back the $230 it cost me to replace the smashed window, but you’d have to put in a full week to earn that much and I don’t believe in cruel and unusual punishment.

I’d like to leave you with one last piece of advice. If you haven’t reformed, and again find yourself unable to resist something inside a locked car, do your victim a favor; hit a locksmith’s vehicle first.