Rules that are golden

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. . .

Author: Susan

This post has 17 Comments

  1. Lori on June 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I would probably have done what you did … been at a loss of words and walked away without saying anything.

    What I HOPE I might have done, is figure out how to offer a blessing to her in reply to her “curse.” (Romans 12:14)

    In any case, you are absolutely correct when you wrote, “And because right now your kids are watching me” and I think you spoke the gospel to those children by your actions – turning the other cheek.

  2. lynnmosher on June 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Sheesh! What rudeness! Don't you hate it when your mind goes blank and you have no comeback?

    My response, if my brain would have been engaged but would have been empty like yours was, might have been very similar to the one you thought up.

    I would have smiled and said, “Teaching your children good manners, are you?”

    Probably just as well you didn't say anything! People get ruder all the time. Boggles my mind!

  3. Susan Meissner on June 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks, Lynn and Lori. I have a feeling if I had said anything I would have somehow offended her and that's all the kids would have seen. Me, somehow being rude to their mother. I seriously hope she regretted later in the day. Or maybe that other mother said quietly to her after we left, “You could've asked them if we could have their table. You could have asked. . .”

  4. Wendy Paine Miller on June 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Reminds me of when my mom and I wanted to have a peaceful day kayaking with manatees and some wacko in a boat yelled at us to move our kayaks. Rattled my peace some and I was feeling protective of my mom at the time so I wasn’t all quiet and graceful.

    Entitlement though, sheesh.

    I remember another time back in my working days some lady in a car garage kept honking at me b/c I needed to visit with the garage attendant for a stamp (a quick interaction). Finally, after the seventh honk I walked over to her car and patted it and said, “You’ll be okay.” I love that memory and cherish it all those times I don’t think of something witty to say.

    Sometimes it might be best to say nothing, but it scares me some that the world is populated with such selfish people.

    Then I remember what a long way I’ve come.

  5. Shauna on June 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Depending on my mood and the tone, I may have stood my ground and said she didn't need a table any more than we did and we were there first, offered to share the table with them, or quietly walked away to avoid a confrontation. Most likely I would have moved but said something snarky and passive-aggressive as I left (not that this is the RIGHT thing to do…just realistically what I would have done!). You never know when a person is the type to escalate a confrontation to something more physical, so if a person is particularly forceful and doesn't follow common social cues, it's often better to just walk away.

  6. Lori (again) on June 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    The thing is, we really never know what's going on with the other person.

    What if her mother is in her last days and this woman is doing all she can to “hold it together” and keep life normal for the kids or give them a day out?

    Maybe she is “that way” in normal life, but it really is possible that there is something else going on and we all have had times when we aren't really ourselves and rely on the mercy and grace of others to forgive our shortcomings.


  7. MommaMindy on June 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Probably exactly what you did. It's better to not say anything, as you did, if you can't think of a soft and gentle answer immediately. (Pr. 15) Now, you have no regrets.

    If I'm quick enough to think of a reply, I use laughter to diffuse situations while still pointing out someone's error, like, “Well, I don't answer MY kids until they say PLEASE.”

    In the end, your kind example spoke a message in manners that the mother wasn't teaching.

  8. Helen Martin on June 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    All things being the same (hot, tired, hungry, with my parents) my response probably would have been like yours right down the line and including the “perfect” response that came hours (or was it days?) later.

    The less likely, but not un-precidented, response would be for me to get really cheerful, say, “You sure do!” and help her get settled. If I was with my kids, it's even more likely that's how I'd act… unless they had already gotten on my last nerve, then see paragraph one 😉

    If there weren't another seating option, I would have stood my ground and said, “We'd love to have you join us; the kiddos will probably need to sit on the grass around us. Mom, why don't you sit here…”

  9. Becky Buchanan on June 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    2 Timothy 3:2 comes to mind. The song from a childhood cartoon as well-

    It NEVER ceases to amaze me how heartless people can be these days-especially to the elderly .I love your comeback thought…the fact that vulnerable children are listening- to show them an example of love and forgiveness!

    I must conclude…if it weren't for God's amazing Grace…I may of acted the same!

    Good call on not partaking of fried Kool-aid or fried butter…!

  10. Bonnie S. Calhoun on June 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    ROFLOL…I would have looked at her with my head cocked to the side, and said, “Whoa…two minds with the same thought!”

    And I've have sat down!

  11. Cindy Thomson on June 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Since there was another table, where your dad moved, I would have said, “There's a table over there.” And pointed. Or I would have said, “There's room.” And scooted over. I've been to lots of outdoor events and seen lots of rude people so I don't think I would have been shocked. But then again, I did not see her expression or heard the tone of her voice. If it was really, really, rude, I likely would have done what you did. Best to get out her way. (But I wish I could think as fast as Bonnie. Love her answer!)

  12. Susan Meissner on June 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Great comments, everyone.

    And Bonnie, I am the one ROFLOLing. But I picture you with your signature head roll, instead of the cocked head. And it is a good laugh.

    I wonder what would have happened if had done what some of you had suggested. Instead of stunned speechlessness, what if I had said, with absolutely no sarcasm, “Yes, please do take my table. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

  13. Susan Meissner on June 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    And that's a GREAT cartoon, Becky. Been a long time since I've seen it. 🙂

  14. Ane Mulligan on June 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Now, you see? You're much nicer than me. If I'd've been there, and had seen the table behind us, I would've told her, “There's one. Take it.” Then I would have plopped my behind on the bench. 😀

    BTW, I like what you thought of later, so keep it in mind should there come another time. 😉

  15. Unknown on June 18, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Your Dad just told me something I had missed…the children were wearing tee shirts with a Christian theme!

  16. Marlayne Giron on June 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    If I had been on prednisone at the time I would have given her an earful. If I wasn't in shock like you then I probably would have stayed put and said: “I don't think so. We were here first.”

    Just know myself and my honest reaction; not saying it's the right one.

  17. Margo Carmichael on June 19, 2011 at 1:25 am

    I think you did the Christlike thing. Not sure I could have.

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