Warning: this is going to be one of those miscellaneous, personal complaint posts. But honestly...just wait till you hear this!
So, Sunday morning, after working through some massive attitudinal issues with Clare, we rendezvoused with Ally and Jarrod and kids at 4th Avenue CofC in Franklin, and had a lovely morning there. Not least because I was agreeably surprised to listen to a sermon on the necessity of creative non-violence! Which is lovely in itself but also relevant to what follows.
After church, it began to rain and so we revised our lunch intentions to take the kids to McDonalds so they could run around on the inside playground area. And while I am no fan of McD's, this is a compromise I am willing to make on occasion because it's way better than the consequences of three restless kids unable to play outside all day. So, we walk in and the kids immediately join a beautiful girl about Clare's age at the toy display and start identifying which one they want, which causes some kind of ruckus with Clare who starts bawling for reasons I have to try to figure out and satisfactorily address, which I do. Then we hustle them off forthwith to playground area before any more hungry energy causes another ruckus, and then I go to the counter to order. There's a couple standing in an ambiguous place, not quite in line or at the counter but standing around sort of in the general area, hanging back, so I ask, "are y'all in line?" and they say no, so I get in line behind my bro-in-law and place my order right after him. As we're clearly together they put our trays up and start putting stuff on them, six adult meals and six kids meals all together. Then I notice a little bottle of milk, which I'd ordered for Clare, right next to my tray, and I think, why isn't this on my tray? So I start to take it but then I notice it's chocolate, which I didn't want, so I put it down and consider whether it is worth pointing out the mistake and asking for plain milk. While I'm pondering this they put a kids meal sack on the counter and announce "cheeseburger" which I'd heard Jarrod order for Levi, so I pick it up to hand to Jarrod. And out of nowhere this blond woman comes up, practically shoulder tackles me, snatches it away and says, "That's ours, and thanks for putting your hands all over it," in a super nasty voice.
Now, if you know me at all, you know that I am absolutely supremely unobservant and often almost comically stereotypically professorishly absentminded, so, it shouldn't surprise you that the obvious 2 + 2 here that these were not our items totally did not occur to me. From my point of view, it wasn't at all obvious, and even in retrospect, I feel like there was some logic to my mistake. And of course, as she said, "this is ours," I immediately handed it to her and started to say, "oh I'm sorry, here you go," but she talked right over that instinctive reply with the nasty "thanks for putting your hands all over it" as she stalks off. So I'm greatly astonished, but, like the moment with the lady in the grocery store parking lot, I'm no longer one to let these things go by internalizing shame or accepting the notion that somehow I deserve to be treated like shit. So I try again with an innocent and sincere, "I'm sorry," but she snaps back with the same nasty statement, and I say (not particularly conciliatory here), "Look, lady, I was nice to you, I even asked if you were in line, what's your problem?" But she just walks off.
I turn back around, and the employees behind the counter, who got a free front row ticket to this drama, are all looking at me and at each other with big round eyes and shrugged shoulders. One of them even said out loud, "what was that about?!" And the girl putting our order together grinned at us a few minutes later and said, "Now, I just want you to know, I'm putting my hand into this bag to put your food in it, I'm touching your food, hope that's okay," and as I left she said to me, "I mean, I'm pregnant and hormonal and I don't act like that!"
Of course, it was too much to hope that we would sit on opposite sides of the place where we could easily ignore each other. Turns out they chose a table right next to where we'd plonked down our stuff already. So, I felt like it would be remiss of me to not attempt some sort of reconciliation with this blonde nutjob. And I did my best--after all, I felt bad about calling her "lady" which is very dismissive. Plus, it had occurred to me that maybe she was pissed about something else--maybe she had seen Clare do something to her little girl while they were swarming around the toy display, and maybe there was something actually problematic that needed to be addressed, which I should know about but somehow missed.
So I approach the table, and before I even open my mouth, this woman rolls her eyes and says to her husband, "OMG, can you believe this?" So I say, "I'm sorry to interrupt your meal, but I feel like I just don't know what I might hve done to offend you, so I'd like to say that I'm sorry but I sortof need you to tell me what to actually apologize for." And she's interrupting every few words of this simple statement to say, over and over, in that same nasty tone, clipping off the ends of her words, "I--don't--want--to--talk--to--YOU."
So I give up, because she's a brick wall and not even hearing that I truly am trying to figure out what the problem is, because clearly, she's got some sort of massive problem with me. But as quickly as I turn away, I turn back again, because this is so absurd and so totally unsatisfactory. And I begin again with acknowledging that I am interrupting their time together, and sorry for that, but in case she missed it, I am genuinely trying to apologize. "What is it that I did?" I say, and stops her robotic litany of "I don't want to talk to you" to say, as if she can't believe she has to explain it, "you TOUCHED the BAG." And I said, "really? That's it. Really? Okay, then I guess I'd like to say that I'm sorry for touching the bag." But she's gone back to the "I don't want to talk to you" thing, and so I just can't manage to filter out my last comment.
"But you know, I do wash my hands after I pee."
Oh, the irony of listening to a sermon on creative non-violence and walking into this crap. I think I failed to remember the take-home phrase, "don't hit back." But honestly...as Anne Shirley would plead..."if only you knew how many things I want to say and don't."
A final irony: we're all sitting there letting our kids romp around the plastic wonderland together, and at one point Clare comes running up to me in mad-tears because "Sol hurt my feelings because she growled in my face. And she won't say sorry." Me: "well, did you tell her you were hurt and why and ask for an apology?" Amswer: no. Of course not, my child is only almost 4. So I say, you have to tell her, and this is what you say. And when Sol comes up, straightway my little girl says, clearly and straightforwardly, "Sol, you hurt my feelings when you growled in my face" and Sol blinks and says immediately, "I'm sorry, Clare," and off they run together back into the plastic wonderland.
My four year old can do it. Take that, you blonde basketcase.