My youngest child was born in December, narrowly missing both Pearl Harbor Day (an inauspicious birthday) and a nurses' strike and subsequent lockout at my local hospital. To celebrate the holiday season, the lobby of the hospital was full of potted red poinsettias, their pots wrapped in colorful foil.
My recovery room in the maternity ward was across from the nurse's station, which was convenient as a patient but not conducive to getting much sleep. The nurses (who were great, by the way) were a chatty and jovial bunch, post-strike and lockout and pre-holiday. One nurse had a birthday that night, so they belted out "Happy Birthday" to her at some pre-dawn hour of the morning. In far more hushed tones, however, they also talked about The Thief.
Earlier in the evening, a new father had arrived at the hospital to see his wife. As he walked through the lobby, he stopped to pick up one of the poinsettias to bring to his wife as a gift. A hospital staff member saw the man take the plant and called security, who followed the man up to the maternity ward and stopped him.
The father claimed that he thought the plants were free. That's a weak excuse, but I guess he had to say something. Would he help himself to the holiday decorations at his workplace or at a mall? More to the point, would a cash-strapped hospital, fresh from battling the nurses' union, give away free plants in its lobby?
Is a poinsettia even a wise gift for a mother and infant, since the infant soon will start gnawing everything in sight once teething sets in? (Poinsettias are not poisonous, but their sap can irritate the skin.) Maybe the father thought that it was better to visit his wife red-handed than empty-handed.