If I were to conduct a spiritual inventory of my average week, I would probably be forced to remember lingering over the condiment table at Starbucks and wondering too loud about why I was paying two dollars for a cup of coffee, and no one could ever remember to restock the Half & Half. “Come on people,” I might even have – lectured? Encouraged? Advised?
No, what I probably did was just bark. This from a guy who has variously worked as waiter, line cook, bartender, ice-cream scooper, so maybe I feel qualified to comment on such shortcomings, or maybe I’m just a real jerk.
I hope not though, and struggle to remind myself on an hourly basis that people who make themselves an obstacle to my personal happiness occasionally have other, more pressing agendas, like, for example, all of the variations of a cappuccino. Like here they are, trained social workers and opera singers and graphic designers asking: Room for the milk? Room for the milk? two-thousand and sixty times a day. Like the meter maid, so calloused and dismissive of my flailing entreaties, who probably has a family somewhere, young children in daycare, maybe a sick mother.
The Little Bit Scary People, by Emily Jenkins, is written for children apparently, but I read it repeatedly over a very short period, well after my son had lost interest. In it, a little girl worries about the bus driver who won’t let her on unless she has exact change, then muses that she, the bus driver, probably makes fancy breakfasts for her kids every morning. She worries about the scary cafeteria lady with the long fingernails who probably sings too loud over her headphones when she goes running, and about the grouchy music teacher who probably curls up in the evenings with cowboy stories and a shaggy dog.
Still, mostly what struck me was the little girl’s impressions of a couple of rowdy teenager types, one of whom happens to be her older sister. When she isn’t kicking over trash cans just to hear the racket, she’s playing football with her smaller siblings, and always letting them win.
Let’s try to remember. My first-grader attends school in a building that also houses a middle school, and I often see parents of younger children regard those bigger kids with something bordering on terror. I know I used to. They’re still babies though. The kids who pose and cuss and strut around in size-twelve sneakers still sleep with stuffed toys, they cry, but they are expected to act like grown-ups after all, and what could be scarier than that?