I had forgotten how many assholes live in my community.
For the last year or so, we have been really swamped. I mean really. Between my father having hip replacement, and us staying with him during rehabilitation; the decision to move closer to him for seven months while we got his home ready to sell; three vacations amounting to a total of nine weeks (Chicago, Chicago, Houston); moving back into our “home community” to a newer, bigger place; then in the culminating event of the past year, selling my dad’s home and condensing his house into a storage unit and one room in our new home…it’s been a little chaotic. I haven’t had a lot of time to get out. Relax. Mingle among the locals.
Now that we are moved in and our place is perfect, homeschooling is on autopilot, and we have no more unanticipated vacations coming down the pipeline for as far as I can see, I’ve been able to get back to normal life. I got back to my book club. And my knitting group. We started having people over for BBQs and dinner again.
And we’ve been out more in the community. Among all the assholes.
It’s been a long time since a bizarre situation appeared itself before me. Trips to the nail salon have not involved police in years. And I can’t remember the last time I witnessed a parent-on-parent confrontation, especially one in which I was involved.
So today, owing to my apparent amnesia as to the state of this community at large (the simple fact that: a lot of people in our town are pretentious, nosy assholes), I decided we were going to have a “girls day” and go shopping. This were just going too well. I had gotten so comfortable in this lack of drama and confrontation that I thought we’d have a good time.
And for the most part we did.
The outlet mall has outdoor corridors, and it was a beautiful day to walk from store to store. We went to the Toys R Us outlet and used up some old birthday gift cards. We went to Michael Kors and I drooled over the purses. I got a shirt at Levi’s for $9 and two pairs or stretchy pants at Charlotte Russe for $15. My wedding band inspection was due, and so we stopped in at the Kay’s Jewelers, which revealed a majorly loose diamond in need of repair. All in all it was fun, relaxing, and productive.
Then we had one, final stop. The Disney Outlet. They had a sale on kid’s hoodies I wanted to check out, and allowance day was earlier in the week. It was going to be quick. It was going to be easy. How dramatic could a trip to the Disney Outlet be?
We found the hoodies, quick and easy. We started perusing the stuff in the allowance price range, and then a lady came in with two, young children. I mean I have young children, but I mean these two kids looked maybe four or five, and acted two. The little boy started immediately knocking things off the shelves. The little girl, every minute and a half – right on time, as if she had a stopwatch – screamed as loud as she could.
The mother kept coughing and coughing, the entire time. I tried to shuffle through the store quickly. Crashing things. Screaming. Cough cough cough.
Cough cough cough.
“Can I help you find anything?” a sales employee asked, and the woman said they were just looking, between coughing, coughing, whooping… whooping…
“Can I get you a drink of water, you seem in distress,” he said and then she admitted she was getting over a case of whooping cough.
Cough cough cough.
I continued to shuffle through and it just got worse and worse with these people. I heard two other employees standing near us, quietly talking about how they’d called the manager for approval to stay later in their shifts to clean up the mess this lady and her two kids had made.
It was that bad.
Cough cough cough.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. They were really close to us at this point. Like looking at the same merchandise. I said “ok, we have to get going so pick what you want now please.”
And then I got protest. Can’t decide. Everything’s great. Blah blah blah. So I did what any other parent in this situation would do, well at least a desperate and at the same time civilized parent, and I leaned over to my ten year old and whispered – WHISPERED – ‘look I can’t take this kid screaming anymore and that lady has whooping cough, we need to go.’
She looked at the disaster of a family standing right next to us – coughing, screaming, and crashing things to the floor; she said she understood. Allowance purchases were selected and we were ready to go within less than a minute.
As we started to walk to the cash register, I heard amidst coughing, screaming, and more things crashing someone shout at me. “Did you just whisper about my family?”
We were the only people in the store, but I still ignored her and walked off. The employees had been talking about her. And anyway, I had whispered. What I say quietly to my kid is my own business. I did absolutely nothing wrong.
But ignoring her was apparently the wrong thing to do; because while checking out, this crazy, coughing lady followed us to the register and started screaming at me “I asked you a question you fucking cunt.”
Disney Outlet. Young children. Do You Want To Build A Snowman playing over the loudspeaker.
Welcome to the Magic Kingdom. You fucking cunt.
Now a lot of people would have turned around and belted that bitch in the mouth. A lot of other people would have turned around and confronted her. Her with all her issues, her lack of belief in the whooping cough vaccine, this psychotic family, and the obvious absence of mental and social decorum.
I signed my credit receipt and instead said as we walked out that I had not heard her. “It’s a little loud in here.” We walked out of the store, the door greeter apologizing for the incident.
With the exception of this lady yelling “fucking bitch” as we exited, the situation was over.
When we got to the car, my daughter asked why I hadn’t “told that lady off,” to which I responded with the common lines about choosing your battles, feeling sorry for people with so many problems, and so on and so forth. Morals. Lessons. Moving on.
But as I drove into my garage, and got everything into the house, I thought about the fact that this is not only a stark reminder that there are a lot of assholes in my community, but that we live in a society in which everyone thinks everything else is their business. So what if I whispered to my daughter about them? Is there something so special about her and those kids that makes that unacceptable?
At least I whispered, others would have said something much louder, and to her face. I chose the high road, while at the same time using tact to get us out of a bad situation. I’ll say it again, and defend it to the death: what I say quietly to my kid is my own business.