It Says Sour


I wrote Monday about how I generally like children, but there are plenty of parents in the world who irritate me. Wednesday I wrote about dealing with parents and a child I liked, and today I'm sharing an anecdote about an encounter with a parent who totally pissed me off.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Target for some particular product. I don't remember what it was; I only remember that they didn't have it. They did, however, have Clueless on sale for $7.50, a spiffy anniversary edition dvd with lots of special features, and as I collect adaptations of Austen novels (in case you didn't know, Clueless is based on Emma) and as my VHS copy of Clueless has grown worn from use, I decided to buy the dvd. So I took my single item and went to stand in the express checkout line.

The woman ahead of me in the express lane was dealing with two children. She seemed a bit frazzled--her son, who seemed about six, wanted some gum, but kept picking out kinds that were sour, and she kept saying, "It says sour! See? It says sour!" I can be pretty good at tuning out other people, so I just ignored her and thought about the pleasant activities I had planned for the rest of the day--I think I was planning to sew. The cashier rang up and bagged my movie before the woman had removed her bags from the counter, and for some reason her son, who had not taken any of his mother's bags, picked up my bag.

"That's mine," I said, in a neutral voice with a neutral expression, and took the bag from him. While I didn't simply wait for him to hand the bag to me, I did not wrest it forcibly from his hand. I didn't smile and say, "Sorry, sweetie, but that's not your mama's bag; it's mine," but neither did I scowl and say, "Gimme that!" And having retrieved my package, I went about the business of handing a 20 dollar bill to the cashier.

The mother stood and eyed me for a moment. "I don't think my son meant to steal your bag," she said.

"I don't think he did, either," I said calmly, still focused on the cashier, who was handing me my change. I mean, why would he want a copy of Clueless?

"Well, you didn't need to be so nasty to him," the mother added, her voice rising.

And at that point I turned and gave the woman my full attention. "I wasn't nasty to your kid, you fucking bitch," I said. (And yes, I realize I exposed the child to genuine profanity. Shame on me, in some ways, and in other ways, WHATEVER. He'll hear it eventually anyway, if he hadn't heard it already. I wanted the mother to understand that there was a genuine difference between neutrality and nastiness.)

"Nice mouth!" she said, and headed out the door. I put my wallet back in my bag and headed out too. I thought briefly about saying something more to her--something like, "I hope you realize you spoke to your son far more sharply than I did," or, "Don't feel you have the right to criticize my behavior unless I also have the right to criticize yours"--but decided against it, got in my car and drove away. (Though in a later fantasy, I also considered the line, "There are some people who shouldn't have children, and you're obviously one of them. Don't take out on me the fact that you're stuck with two very big mistakes you clearly can't handle." But that, unlike the F-word, is something I would feel guilty for saying in front of a child.)


I'm still not done.


Amen, Holly! I love kids but just don't have the patience for temper fits or the ears for high-pitched screaming just to make oneself heard. I have all the patience in the world for tears of hurt or pain or fear.

When my friends and I went shopping in our younger days, we used to see kids going wild and say to each other knowingly, "shopping is the best birth control."

The last time I got on a plane I was seated in the exit row with two other gentlemen. Other passengers were filing in and one woman had a child in arms and two in tow (with empty-handed husband). The child in arms was shreiking at the top of his lungs, just to hear the sound as it bounced off the walls of the jet. The sound went straight into my ears like an icy knife; I could feel my fillings rattle in my teeth, and tears sprang to my eyes. The FOURTH time he shrieked next to my seat, it slipped out of me: "That has to stop." I didn't yell, I didn't scream, I just made a flat statment similar to the one you did. The mother began to heap abuse on my head, mostly about nasty people who forgot what it was like to be a child. The father just stood there and looked embarassed. After a certain amount of abuse I finally responded, "Actually, I do remember what it was like, and had I behaved that way in a plane my father would have smacked me the first time I shreiked. Now, I'm not advocating that you hit your child but I am saying that it is very painful to my ears and I am sure that others, perhaps with hearing aids, might be uncomfortable as well."

The mother, chastised, moved on. Other passengers looked at me with disgust. My gentleman seat companions congratulated me on being "the only one with balls" on the plane.

I've also had fabulous plane chats with wonderful kids, and have seen responsible parents entertain their tiny children (and onlooking passengers) while remaining courteous to their fellows.

Sorry to hijack your comments. But, gghhah! People ought to have to pass a test and get a license to have children. Errr!

Yay Holly. I'm loving this side of you ;-)

One time in a supermarket, I picked up a basket, turned round too fast and almost beaned a little girl in the head. Her mother seemed less annoyed about that than the fact that I apologised to the little girl instead of to her.

Wow, Go Holly :) I wouldn't let someone talk shit to me like that either. Just reading this made me want to chase the woman down and give her shit. *growling*

I swear, with some parents, it's like having children sucks the brains right out of their head!

Hi Juti--Yes, that anecdote on the plane is precisely the thing that drives me nuts. How frustrated I am by a noisy child on a plane is in direct proportion to how much the parent tries to hush the child. If you've got a very small baby and it's bothered by turbulence or something, well, there's not a whole lot the parent can do. But once on a flight from Phoenix to Brussels, there was a girl of six or seven a few rows behind him who cried and cried, and her mother just her--made no effort at all to comfort or control the girl. How is that OK?

Reese--I'm glad you like this, because I was worried it would really piss people off. I wrote a couple of these entries weeks ago, but it took me a while to work up the nerve to post them.

Hi SunlessNick--thanks for dropping by. Sorry you've also encountered a parent who thinks anything done to her child has also been done to her.

Melanie--You're right that some parents seem to get stupider after they reproduce. And yet you meet enough who do a decent job that I think part of the problem has to be that some people are pretty stupid even before they have kids.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on July 20, 2006 5:32 PM.

Why I Didn't Post Yesterday, or a Hurt Hip and a Cute Kid was the previous entry in this blog.

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