Something amazing happened today. Don't get me wrong, it didn't quite counteract the daily dose of dream killing that retail serves up on a platter, but it was a momentary spark of happiness and hope in an environment which, for employees, is otherwise devoid of anything other than allergens and bitterness.
A young couple came in the store herding a small terror of about three years old in front of them (and behind them, beside them, underneath them, a few yards north-east of them, etc). My initial reaction was to thank the retail gods that at least it was a girl. Call me sexist if you wish but in my personal experience every single time a boy between the ages of two and twelve visits a retail location they always leave behind one of two things: bodily fluids, or an expensive gadget damaged beyond repair due to it's implementation as a weapon.
Little boys exude mindless destruction like Disney villain side-kicks. You can see it seeping through their pores as they fondle expensive wine glasses while their parents try to pick out monogrammed guest towels. It's like every single one of them was fed a breakfast of Pixi Stix and espresso beans and then tied to a chair and blindfolded until just before being released in the Fine China department.
So while I was thankful I wouldn't be sweeping up broken glass or retrieving Kindle accessories from the ceiling beams in the near future, I was still wary of this happy little family, mainly because the kid was absolutely adorable. This is almost never a good sign. Any three year old that will sit patiently long enough to have her hair curled so perfectly has something sinister lurking inside. She was wearing a beautiful little pink and white flowered dress and her long blonde hair was impeccably styled. She was beautiful and she was unequivocally aware of it.
As she hopped, skipped, sprinted and at one point definitely two-stepped her way through the store she made it clear to everyone that she was having an exceptionally wonderful day. This is almost always exactly the moment in every child' day that something will go horribly wrong, be it external forces or an internal breakdown of some sort. I made a mental note of this but had no choice other than to watch it play out. As long as she didn't break anything or puke on the floor I couldn't get involved, and anyway she was tiny and her parents seemed mildly capable of handling the impending catastrophe.
As they approached the counter with a few items I noticed a Pillow-Pet in their cart. For those of you unfamiliar with this incredibly popular item, I find it easier not to attempt to describe it to you.
As they approached the counter the little girl got distracted by our giant "wall o' candy" that is put there for that very purpose, and began hastily shoving whatever she could reach into her pockets, her father's pockets, her shoes, you name it. It was like the kid had never seen candy before, and was also being starved, except she was singing and laughing and shouting to her parents about how wonderful it all was, which I doubt anyone suffering from starvation would have the energy for.
As she was attempting to verbally manipulate a Toblerone bar into opening, her mother turned to her and said "If you don't behave and come here right now I'm not buying you the Pillow Pet" which also happens to be the one phrase that I hear more times in a day than "Can I get a refund for that?".
As expected, the tiny blonde bundle of superfluous joy didn't even hear her and continued screeching at the candy bar while clumsily reaching for the ring-pops that were no doubt nothing but a pile of brightly colored distraction in her peripheral vision.
Her father then chimed in with the ever popular countdown, but surprised me by starting from three instead of five. This obviously shocked her as well, since she looked up momentarily and whispered something under her breath. I was tempted to take her side for a moment and point out that three seconds is not nearly long enough for a person to thoroughly gauge the sincerity of such a statement, and weigh it against the instant gratification of candy versus the instant gratification of owning a pillow that is also a pet.
She decided to take the route most young minds do in such traumatic decision making events and simply ignored the countdown.
Things began to play out in the same way they do every time. Mom says "Okay, no Pillow Pet today, sorry." Dad takes said Pillow Pet out of the cart and returns it to the bin where they are kept, and little girl starts to bawl as she realizes she has made the wrong choice.
But then something amazing happened. The little girl continued to scream and cry, her doll-like face turning red and her little hands balling into fists. She begins to beg and plead, first to her parents and then right to the big man himself, promising anything if only she can have her Pillow Pet back. Her parents finished paying for their items, picked up their bags, grabbed the screaming child by the hand, and left the store without buying the Pillow Pet.
I have literally never seen this happen before in my life. Everyone threatens. Every child ignores said threats, and continues misbehaving. Every parent finishes their countdown and puts the toy away. Then the kid continues to screams and eventually apologizes, and every parent then goes and gets the toy and buys it. I have never before witnessed a parent give an ultimatum at the check-out counter and follow through with it.
The thing that amazed me most is that I actually felt bad for the kid. For a moment I was upset that her parents, when witnessing her contrition, didn't bargain and exchange the toy for an apology. But then I got over it and realized she had been given plenty of chances and this was in fact the right move to make. It just shocked me because I am so used to spoiled kids whose parents get them whatever they want regardless of ultimatums.
I had to fight the urge to give them a slow clap on their way out the door, and thank them for providing a glimmer of hope for American parents. If people like that still exist maybe our country won't be full of nothing but Kardashian-esque adults by the year 2040.