My wife looks young. Helpful bystanders routinely step in to offer instruction to the poor, helpless, teen mother. It annoys her, which is why she was so tickled when it happened to me.
In the grocery store, we got a big cart for the boys to ride in and a little cart for our groceries. New Baby rode on top, in his car seat; the big boys shared the area below. Putting them into a cart together was setting them up for a cage match, but it was what they wanted and better than chasing them all over the store.
It’s crowded quarters in a shopping cart, so the fights came early and often. Since I couldn’t see over the car seat, the fighting noise reassured me they were in good health. I’m not sure how parents of well-behaved children have any peace of mind in such situations.
We were minding our own quarrels. An older lady, dressed in a colored sheet from the neck down, passed us in the aisle. I felt a tug at my arm.
The lady had a hold on me, in a completely un-grocery-store-like fashion. With her non-grabby hand she pointed toward the front of my cart. “He’s trying to poke the other one in the eye with that thing,” she informed me in the gravest of tones. “You might want to check on them.”
Statements that begin, “You might want to . . .” chafe me. That little injection of faux tact doesn’t temper the judgment.
“Oh, Jesus!” I thought, and possibly muttered. My wife, who was watching from the safety of the little cart, says I rolled my eyes at the lady, although I don’t remember this.
Really? You’ve never considered that if brothers this age meant to poke each other’s eyes out, they’d have done it by now?
I stepped around to look at the boys. Buster was holding the plastic clip of the toddler strap about six inches away from Big Brother’s face. I probably rolled my eyes again and proceeded as if I’d never been accosted.
Poking him in the eye, indeed! How did she know he wasn’t going for the teeth? Or the throat? She never raised boys if she thinks they’re that predictable. In this instance, the clip at the end of the toddler strap is known as leverage. You can’t effectively negotiate in such tight quarters without leverage.
It probably wouldn’t even hurt that much.
Having diffused a volatile situation, by ignoring the helpful intervention of a stranger, I looked for my wife. She was having difficulty following, due to a laughing fit making her struggle to remain on her feet.
Finally, catching up, and catching her breath, my wife recounted the splendor of my eye rolling at the lady. “Why didn’t you tell her you appreciated her concern?” she asked through her tears.
“Because I didn’t appreciate it.”
Thrilled that I had gotten a taste of the unwed, teen mother treatment, she pleaded, “You’ve got to write about this!”
Leaving the store, we saw our helpful stranger again. That includes the boys, because, against all odds, their eyes were still in their heads. The lady had set off the exit alarm and was explaining to an employee that she’d paid for everything.
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” I said to my wife.
“That’s the title of your post,” she replied.
And so it is.