Home > Uncategorized > The social contract be damned

The social contract be damned

So the other day The Child and I were walking to the bookstore to pick up a copy of Owly. (If you have pre-reader and haven’t heard of Owly, you need to go out now and get it. It’s awesome.) Anyway, we had to walk alongside the grocery store, under that narrow awning to keep out of the rain. Because the store keeps its carts there, it’s a pretty narrow stretch and walking side-by-side blocks the whole path.

A woman ahead of me, walking like she was going to pass through, suddenly moved to one side, grabbed her grocery cart, and yanked it back and whipped it around at high speed.

It was, of course, aimed right at the Child’s head.

I’ve got good mom reflexes, I guess, because I managed to get my hand out in time to catch it about half an inch from The Child’s temple. Unusually for me, I didn’t make any loud noises — I’m a shouter — and the woman at first looked, for a fraction of a second, angry at me for grabbing her cart. Then The Child, who I’d yanked back with my other hand, tripped over her feet as she jumped back and the woman finally realized she’d just nearly killed a child.

“Oh my god I’m so sorry,” she gushed, “is she okay?’

“I don’t know yet,” I said, looking down. I was pretty sure that the cart hadn’t hit her, but I wasn’t sure.

“Is she okay?” the woman repeated, crowding closer. I moved her cart away and tried to get out of the tight narrow space.

Now, I thought that since I hadn’t felt an impact and there was no wailing, we were probably fine. But I was angry. And it was so tight in there, so crowded that I really didn’t know because I couldn’t bend down to see.

“I don’t know. Excuse me.” I managed a tight smile that is universal for “get the fuck outta my way lady.”

She kept on talking to my back as I tried to lead The Child to somewhere I could see her. After about ten steps, a nice man who worked for the grocery store said, “Is she okay?” and I said, “I think so,” and looked down to see The Child had pulled her raincoat’s hood down over her face.

I scooped her up (we were finally somewhere wider) and said, for the first time, “Honey, are you hurt?”

“Yes,” wailed The Child, in a sobbing voice. “On my side.”

I administered the Mom Kiss and hugged her and started to walk away and the damned woman came running up behind me to shout, “Is she okay?!”

“No, she’s not! I will take care of it,” I snarled over my shoulder.

I understand that reassuring someone that everything’s fine — even when it isn’t… especially when it isn’t — is part of the weird social contract we’ve got going on in modern America. But I did not want to reassure this woman. She hadn’t bothered to look behind her, she had nearly hurt my kid because she was careless and thoughtless. And there was nothing she was going to be able to do anyway.

The small fair part of my brain says that maybe she wanted to make sure the Child was okay so she could offer to pay medical bills or something but I doubt it. Mostly she wanted to be told it was okay, she wasn’t a bad person.

But she wasa bad person. Not Hitler-bad. Not Alberto Gonzales bad. Not Idi Amin-bad. Not even the guy who takes an illegal right on red bad. But still bad. And I wasn’t going to give her even the slightest hint of approval.

Stupid bint.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. elcynae
    May 8, 2009 at 3:51 am

    I’d be pissed too. But that said, I don’t reassure people so they’ll feel better, I reassure them so I’ll feel better. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So was/is she ok? I sort of assume so, since you don’t mention otherwise… but you didn’t reassure us either! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. aguane
    May 9, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Was she really a bad person or was she someone who just had a parent die or lost a patient or whose husband just phoned to tell her he’d lost his job and the last thing on her mind was to look for children that are shorter than the shopping cart? I’m constantly terrified that someone will hit my son in a parkinglot simply because he’s too short to be seen by some of the taller vehicles rear-view mirror. Just because someone doesn’t see a person, doesn’t mean that they are bad or that they’re pestering you for reassurance so that they’ll feel better. For a lot of people wanting to make sure the person they almost hurt is an obsessive need – especially if it was completely accidently. A bad person would have said “get your child out of my f’ing way, didn’t you see me turning around???”

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