Friday, April 2, 2010

Kids in Store

There this weird beliefs among parents that the rest of the world owes them some sort of latitude because they have kids, and we should realize how special and precious the little monsters are. I’m not suggesting by any means children should be strapped down to some sort of Hannibal Lector type device replete with leather face mask and a grill for the mouth, but if people were better about keeping their kids out of my personal space, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now, would we?
There are times I don’t mind indulging children but there are times I really do not want to speak to anyone, much less entertain someone who ought to be under some sort of parental supervision. I do not like for kids to walk up to me in public, after slipping off mommy or daddy’s leash, and begin peppering me with question about my hat or my beard, or asking me if I can guess how old they are. I could give a damn less about how old a kid is, I just do not want some caffeinated soccer mom to come around the corner looking for her little precious one and me have to explain my conversating with a five year old.
Parents do not send kids too young to understand simply manners into a store looking for something with the instructions they are supposed to hurry. I’ve seen kids running down aisles as if being chased by Ted Bundy’s little sister. They’ll damn near collide with you while they’re running and all but push you out of the way to get to what they’ve been sent for, and then they’re off like they’re powered by meth flavored coco pops.
And truly, pushing around one of the race car shopping cars is something not to be done during rush hour.
On the upside of things, a friend of mine and I were trying to load some plywood onto one of those vertical carts and it moved away from us as we tried to load it. Before we could so much as think what to do next, some kid who might have been six or seven was walking by with his father. He stopped, grabbed the cart and said, “I got it!” and held it while we loaded the plywood then caught up with his Dad. He never hesitated to help, and he ran back to his dad without looking back. He’s done this before, and it’s second nature to him, obviously.
I was waiting for my tires to be put on the truck and a woman with a two year old was sitting in the waiting room and the kid looked at me, looked at my bald head, looked at me, looked at my head, and I was just about to get up and walk away when he started this weird language with his mother and she pulled out the animal crackers. Moms know what babies are saying even if we do not. Anyway, he got a couple of cookies and walked over and offered them to me and said, from what his mother told me, “You need this cookie because it’s a lion and this one is broke but you can have it too.” They were a little stale but I ate them anyway. You cannot discourage someone who wants to feed other people. It’s bad karma.
I was walking through a store one day and this kid was trying to get his mom to come back because she had left the cart and walked down the aisle to get something. Well, he reaches out and grabs the chinstrap of my hat, which is dangling down my back. Now, it was startling, but I realize the kid had figured out if he grabbed the strap, I might tow him towards mom. I walked very slowly and the kid acted like he just cured cancer. This was great fun. Mom was more than a little shocked, but once she got past the event, the idea her son had figured out how to get from point A to point B really surprised her. The fact that he had been in contact with a total stranger dismayed her. It was a little sad that she thought it was a bad thing, but I could see her point.

The local hardware store is sometimes manned by the owners kid, and even though he is too young to be doing that sort of thing by himself, he does it well. Clearly he knows the business, and where everything is, and how much it costs, and it is just as clear he’s been taught to show customers a great deal of respect. You can teach good manners but you can also tell when tell when a kid is just plain happy to be helping out in some way. The big chain stores have better prices but I make it a habit to shop local when I can.

Today one of my co-workers had to bring her ten year old son to work with her after lunch, and he came over and talked to me for about an hour. It was a distraction, sure, but at the same time, I was able to have a pretty good conversation with him about American military history. Some of the gems he revealed to me included:
Japanese kamikazes sank the US Arizona by flying down the smokestacks of the ship.
Germany, France and Italy fought together against the Allies in World War One.
“Black Rain” is the most destructive force in nuclear weapons because it’s like acid that dissolves everything.
We’re fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan and they’ve got primitive guns that explode sometimes.

I know history pretty well and was able to talk him down from a lot of the stuff he learned in school. I hope he’s just not understanding what they’re teaching, and he does seem like a bright kid. He knew what year D-Day happened, and he knew some of the operational stuff, like shore bombardment, and the function of airborne troops dropped behind the lines.
This all started out as a ran against people letting their kids get away from them, but suddenly I realize I’ve interacted with some pretty good children lately.

Take Care,
Mike

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