"Who collects traffic signs?" I ask.

"Obviously, an individual who covets order in order to compensate for the disorder that roils in his subconscious."

"That was a rhetorical question."

"A rhetorical question masks a kind of neediness for acceptance."

I turn to my friend End World Poverty (his real name is Lloyd Mandelbaum...long story). "Did you really have to bring your kid? It's 2 in the morning. He should be in bed counting sheep."

"Counting sheep is for sheep," Seth says "You are a very damaged human being."

"Yeah, well, at least I've gone through puberty." 

"You just proved my point with that insipid attempt at an insult," he says.

"Stop." End World Poverty says. "We need to focus."

Seth and I exchange a glance, like Churchill and Stalin must've given each other at the end of the Yalta Conference.

The moon is like a hanging lightbulb. I can see my breath. If it could see me it would probably question what I was doing in the middle of the night crouched behind a row of bushes lining Frycroft St.. And I would answer we're about to snatch a stop sign so I can give it to Polk, my accountant, to make up for hurting his feelings on Valentine's Day when I rejected his gift of flowers which weren't meant for me anyway so I can regain access to the sample trays of cheese at Whole Foods.

"This should go down with the effectiveness of a polio vaccine." End World Poverty says. "I loosened the sign this afternoon by running into it a few times with my Beemer. Do you realize women in Germany earn 23% less than men?" End says.

"No," I say.

"Each time I rammed the sign and dented the car I felt like I was striking a blow for women's rights."

I hesitated before responding because, well, because, that is the kind of statement on which one hesitates before responding.

"Way to go, Dad!" Seth says.

"If I can speak for German women in Germany, thank grab the sign and get out of here."

End World Poverty suggests Seth work lookout while he and I lift the sign out of the ground and carry it to the car which was parked around the corner. I'm in agreement. The plan is simple yet not so simple it would be held back a grade.

Just as we're about to launch the operation...

"Psssst!" Seth points at the road in front of us. A police car is rolling to a stop, near the stop sign.

This is not good.

Seconds later, another police car arrives and stops fifty yards away. Followed by another. Followed by a large armoured vehicle. Men in uniforms with lots of weaponry pile out of that one and move like...malaria.. toward the house beside the house whose bushes we are using as our base of operations.

End World Poverty wants to abandon the endeavour. We've made our point; we've struck a blow for women's rights in Germany. We can leave. No, I say, we haven't made our point because if we leave now without the traffic sign then I won't regain my free cheese sample rights at Whole Foods.

"Is that what this is about? Free food samples at Whole Foods?!"

I  neglected to bring this up when recruiting End World Poverty. "Are you aware of the number of children in the world who go to bed hungry because they haven't had a meal that day! And you want to involve me in your acquisition of free samples at Whole Foods!"

"If you had the free cheese samples at Whole Foods you'd understand. Listen, how about this, you help me with the sign, when I regain my access to the free samples I'll donate a mutually agreeable percentage of samples to a country of your choice. I'll even cover postage up to 10 bucks." Richard Holbrooke, when he was alive, could not have done better.

"I can't do this. Sorry. Seth, we're going. Seth!" We look around but Seth is no longer amongst us. He's amongst the lone policeman having a smoke beside his police car. And they're having an intense  conversation.

"What's he doing?"

"Probably ratting me out," I say.

"That's not Seth. But you deserve it."

"He's getting into the police car. They're driving away. Anything happens to him..."

After about a minute End's phone beeps.  "It's a text from Seth... Hey Dad, I'm okay. Told the cop I suffer from a severe case of somnambulism. Asked if he could drive me home. Sign's free. Lates. love, Seth. "

End World Poverty grins at me wide. Real wide.   

It isn't a moment I will pack in my personal time capsule. It's more like a moment I will wrap in a linen napkin and take to my therapist's office where I will serve it up. We snatch the sign and drive off.

The next day I present the stop sign to Polk, my accountant, who is surprised and pleased. That afternoon I regain my free sample rights at Whole Foods. But when I bite into my first cheese sample in days - a suberb grana padano - it just doesn't taste the same....maybe the episode has changed me...and then one of the staff comes over and replaces the tray. "Rancid, sorry." And then again maybe I've changed the episode.