Which is why I’m sharing this with you. I’d like your opinion.
I was in the wine and beer aisle picking out a few bottles of cabernet sauvignon – surprising, I know – when I happened to glance over at the closest check-out lane to me. A woman was at the check-out unloading one of those large, child-friendly carts, the ones that come equipped with steering wheels and where the kids sit high up behind the main basket. Happily enough there were two actual children sitting in the child seats at the back of the cart, a boy and a girl.
The girl’s name remains a mystery to me even now, but the boy’s name is Mason. I know this because his mother said his name several times over the minute or so that I watched this family… no, “stared raptly” is a far better description of my activity.
You see, as the mother of these two lovely children steadily unloaded her items from the very full cart onto the conveyor belt to be tallied, young Mason, who is probably around 5 years old, apparently came to the conclusion that he’d spent quite enough time behind his ineffective steering wheel. So he stood up – bear in mind that the seat he was on stands a good 3 feet above the ground – a nice, hard, tile surface – and that the cart itself is on wheels, wheels that do not lock. Mason stood up and set on foot onto the platform behind his seat, a platform that has a bar behind it which is the push-bar for the cart itself.
Mason proceeded to lean over and prop himself half in the cart and half on the check-out conveyor belt. After a few second like this, he heaved his body out of the cart and dangled from the conveyor belt platform, and not finding this entertaining enough, he alternately hung there kicking his legs in the air and swung his feet back over and onto the back of the cart. (Mason’s sister watched all of this mutely.)
As Mason performed these acrobatics on store equipment, Mason’s mother repeated, over and over, “Mason. Don’t do that, Mason. Mason, please stop that. Mason, stop.” As she spoke in a voice that held an incredible lack of authority – which I can only assume is her own personal, subtle tactic – in order to emphasize how serious she was, how much she meant every word, this woman… kept unloading her groceries.
The looks on the grocery store employees’ faces was fabulous, though to their credit, they said nothing.
And neither did I. Though I considered it. Oh yes, yes I did. Why, you ask? Well, aside from my concern about the safety of young Mason’s noggin, which would not have been in great shape had the cart slid out from under him unexpectedly while he was standing upright, or his general well being while he played on store equipment that was not intended to double as a playground, what was going on – especially on the part of the mother – demonstrated amazing disregard for the store.
Think about it. Everything Mason did put the equipment at risk, particularly the conveyor belt. That platform isn’t intended to hold the very wiggly weight of a large 5-year-old, especially not one dangling from one spot, and his weight on the belt itself, providing additional resistance as it tried to move the grocery items forward, could have added to its wear and tear or could have broken it. Should Mason have actually injured himself, the store would have been under all sorts of scrutiny or at risk of a lawsuit – hopefully one that would be thrown out as unbelievably frivolous, but the risk would still exist.
I don’t know. Maybe my expectations about how kids should be taught to behave are too high. Maybe I’m too much of a stickler about teaching even young children to respect the assets and items of a business with respect, even those of the neighborhood grocery story, and to act with some semblance of decorum when at a store (or a restaurant, or a movie theater… yes, they get a free pass at kid gyms and bouncy places).
Ultimately, I kind of wish I’d said something… to Mason… to Mason’s mom… but maybe it’s good that I didn’t.
What do you think? What would you have done?