Today as I shopped at the supermarket, there was a young child in the store having a crying fit. It was really more like a screaming fit. It’s amazing that a small child could make that much noise.
But, I really don’t know how old the child was; I don’t know if the child was a boy or girl; I don’t know why the child was unhappy. I don’t know any of these things because I never actually saw the child, I only heard the child!
But the child’s screaming was ubiquitous! There was nowhere in the store that you could go to get out of range of the child’s crying and screaming.
Mind you, this was a large and busy supermarket. And the screaming continued for almost all the time I was there. And I wasn’t there just to pick up a few things; I was doing our weekly grocery shopping. But no matter where I went in the store, the produce aisle, the frozen foods aisle, the canned goods aisle, the dairy aisle, the deli, I could hear every scream that child was making.
And, I had mixed emotions about the child’s screaming. My initial reaction was that it was quite annoying. But I don’t know why a child crying loudly in some far corner of the grocery store was so disruptive to my shopping trip.
It’s not like that supermarket is a place to find inner peace and tranquility. In fact, I find a trip to that supermarket is hardly relaxing and hugely exasperating, from finding a place to park in the crowded parking lot to the excruciatingly long wait in the too few checkout lines.
On this particular day, I went in mid-morning, not my usual time for grocery shopping. And it seems that mid-morning is the time the store chooses to stock the shelves. Down every aisle and around every corner there were pallets of boxes of products to be stocked on the shelves. So, in addition to navigating the narrow aisles with all the other shoppers, you also had to work around the stockers and their stockpiles.
Then, I kept encountering a certain elderly lady in one of those battery-powered shopping carts. She always had that cart parked right in front of the shelves where I needed to shop and she would leisurely examine all the various brands looking for the best bargain. I don’t know who was more annoying, the screaming child or the mobile shopping lady.
My other reaction to the child’s incessant screaming was this sense of admiration, maybe even a tinge of respect, for that parent who obviously wasn’t going to allow the screaming child to win the day and undermine their trip to the grocery store, even if it aggravated mine!
Now, I shop from the back of the store to the front, from dairy in the back to produce at the front. As I finalized my shopping trip by searching for some bananas with just the right combination or green and yellow on the peel, an elderly lady (not the lady in the battery-powered cart) walked up and also began to probe the bananas and complained to me about the screaming child as if we were kindred spirits.
You probably already know what she said: “If that was my child, it wouldn’t be screaming around the store. These parents today just let their children get away with anything and they just ignore their bad behavior.”
I nodded my head, grabbed a bunch of not-quite-ripe bananas and headed for the checkout lines still wondering if my annoyance toward the screaming child was greater than my admiration for the uncompromising parent.
From the produce aisle it’s a clear shot to the checkout lines. So, setting aside my perturbation over the crying child, I made my move for the finish line. But I had to bring my cart to an abrupt halt to avoid a collision with the elderly lady in the battery-powered shopping cart. She had also made her move and now she was ahead of me in the hunt for the shortest checkout line!
“How could she have finished so quickly”” I wondered, remembering that I had left her behind on the frozen foods aisle scouring the ice cream freezer.
As I waited in the checkout line, the screams from the unhappy child finally subsided. I assumed the child and its family had purchased their groceries and exited the store. Then as I left the store and was pushing my cart full of purchased groceries through the parking lot, I again encountered the elderly lady who had been riding in the battery powered shopping cart now loading her groceries in her car.
“How does she do that?” I wondered to myself, calculating how she could have already made it through the checkout line.
And suddenly it all made sense to me. The answer was clear, my dilemma resolved, my conundrum was settled! I had definitely formed an opinion.
And, the truth of the matter was gnawing at me all the while the child was screaming. That could have been me! The parent with the child screaming relentlessly, the parent not in control of his children, the parent the people in the store were complaining about, might have just as well been me.
Except for one small matter. I would have hightailed it out of the store with screaming kid in tow and leaving a shopping cart full of food behind once I realized I wasn’t going to win the battle.
Sure, I was annoyed by the screaming child. I was also annoyed by the elderly lady in the battery-powered shopping cart. Yet, my problem wasn’t my annoyance with the screaming child but the guilt that screaming child made me feel for raising my kids more like a grandparent than a parent.
Yes, I clearly admired the parent more than I was annoyed by the screaming child. That parent may not have won the battle that day, but I think she will win the war.