Last night I went out to do a little Christmas shopping.
I don’t really have that many gifts to buy so “Christmas shopping” is a cover for buying myself things. But in one store I found a box of holiday cards that was unspecific and plain enough for me to send to my board members. And they were only $5.
So, even though the line to the register was long, I joined it.
The line was filled with gray-haired grandmothers with carts filled with Christmas decorations and wrapping paper and mothers with carts full of kids and toys.
In back of me was one particularly frazzled-looking mother and after just five minutes around her daughter, I understood why.
The daughter was three or so and her name was Tessa. I remember this because I have a good friend with a dog named Tessa so every time the woman called to her daughter I expected a chocolate lab to come bounding down the aisle.
Tessa (the girl, not the dog) insisted that she had to have a ginger ale from the conveniently placed soda cooler by the register.
I have honestly always thought those coolers were a good idea. You get thirsty shopping and might need a bottle of water. Or your energy starts to flag and a Diet Coke will keep you going for a few more hours. I obviously have never considered them from a mother’s point of view.
Tessa’s mother told her that she couldn’t have a ginger ale, but Tessa climbed out of her stroller, politely excused herself to the person standing in front of the cooler and helped herself.
She took a Sprite, not a ginger ale, but she probably couldn’t read and they’re both in green bottles.
Tessa put the bottle in her stroller and her mother told her she could only have the ginger ale if she got back in the stroller too.
Tessa said she would, but then she spotted the credit card swipe machines by the registers, with that inviting fake pen for signing the screen.
She abandoned her soda and the stroller for a credit card machine.
Her mother, still in line, called to her over and over again trying to entice her back. Tessa was too busy scribbling on the screen and saying things “I’ll pay for it” and “credit or debit.” I get the impression they shopped a lot.
By this time, Tessa’s mother had reached the soda cooler and the “ginger ale” had been returned to its shelf. All I could think about was getting out of that store before Tessa noticed that she wasn’t getting her soda.
The mother continued to implore Tessa to return to the stroller, but the little girl was still happily paying for her purchases and ignoring her mother when I got to a register.
This continued while the mother checked out too. One of the grandmothers even called out to Tessa, “Your mother is calling you.”
It didn’t work, so she gave the mother a sympathetic look and said, “Sometimes they listen to other people.”
Now this is my favorite part of the entire episode.
You know how parents will pretend to leave kids behind when they’re dawdling? They’ll say, “I’m leaving. Good bye!” and fake walking out to get the kid to move. And the kid freaks out and starts running, screaming “Don’t leave me! I’m coming!”
When Tessa’s mom was done at the register, she decided to try this tact. She picked up her bags and said to Tessa, “I’m leaving now.”
Tessa ignored her and signed the screen once more with a flourish.
The mom tried again. “All right. I’m going to leave you here. Bye.”
At this Tessa looked at her mother. She waved and called out, “Ok. Bye too!”
Talk about a plan backfiring.
My cards were long paid for at this point and I was just lingering to watch the drama play out. But I figured it wouldn’t get any better than that great line, so I left. I wonder if they’re still in that store.
As if that weren’t enough to convince me that my decision to not have kids was the right one, a little boy at work today reinforced the point.
It was the city’s holiday celebration and the local ballet company performed three shows of The Nutcracker.
The result of the two events taking place simultaneously is barely controlled chaos. Little girls dressed up to see a ballet and spin art should never mix, by the way.
The city always gives away all sorts of treats donated by local stores and restaurants. The best of the goodies are these great big foil trays of cinnamon breadsticks from the local pizza place. If you can score one while they’re still hot it’s like eating a powdered sugar covered piece of heaven.
Today, these treats were all displayed on a table right outside the box office door.
After one of the performances, while there were 500 people crammed into the tiny lobby, two boys walked up to the tray of cinnamon bread sticks.
The older boy grabbed one and started eating it.
The younger boy, following the older kid’s lead, took one too.
Just as he took his first bite, the other boy said, “Hey, you’re supposed to pay for that!”
The younger boy’s face drained of all color. He looked so scared that I was afraid he was going to pass out. He stared at the breadstick, and you could tell he was wondering if anyone would notice if he returned it to the tray with a bite missing.
He must have decided against it, because he just stood there, holding the breadstick and looking miserable.
The older boy, or should I say brat, started laughing. He said, “You don’t have to pay for them, dummy.” And he walked away.
You just know that older kid is going to be the office bully when he grows up. I just hope the younger one is his boss.