I was with my parents at the San Diego County Fair on Wednesday (did NOT try the fried stick of butter, fried Kool-Aid or the bacon doughnut) and had one of those experiences that left me speechless. The encounter was worthy of a comment or response from me but I had none to give. And even now, three days later, I am at a loss as to how I might’ve responded. Perhaps you Edglings will have some advice for me in case the situation ever presents itself again.
So we are coming out of one of the exhibit halls, it is fifteen minutes before noon and we are ready for Something On A Stick. We’re hungry. We walk to the rows of picnic tables set up on the food midway and my dad starts to sit down at one. My mom and I have just set our purses on the table when a woman comes up to us. With her is another woman and maybe four or five little kids. The woman plops down her own bag.
“We need this table,” she says, like a librarian might say say to noisy children, “You need to keep your voices down.” Not, “Hey would you mind if we took this table? I know you were here first, but would you mind? The kids are really hungry.” Not, “Would it be all right if we shared your table?”
Just an unapologetic commandeering with all those little future adults watching.
“We need this table.”
As in “Go away now. We are taking this table.”
My mouth dropped open, as did my mom’s. My dad, a quiet philosophical soul, just looked around, saw a table behind us that was also available and got up and walked over to it. My mom and I, usually mavens of conversation, followed him without a word.
“Did that just happen?” I asked them.
We laughed quietly, because, yes, it had. But it really wasn’t exactly funny. It was very strange. The more the day wore on, the more it bothered me that this woman had so little respect for anyone but herself and her own agenda. And those children are watching her and learning from her.
Six or seven hours later, I thought of something I could’ve said but probably wouldn’t have. When she said “We need this table,” I could have replied very kindly with, “Actually, fellow citizen, what you need are manners. Your children are watching you. They are learning how to be an adult by watching you. But I will give you this table. I want you to have it because your need for a big table exceeds my own. And because right now your kids are watching me.”
And then we would have left to enjoy our lunch amid the sea of humanity all around us at the fair.
What would you have done? Tell me. . .