Nonparents just don’t understand

by Caleb Reading

I was at goodwill looking for good books (found a first edition W. Somerset Maugham last time). Everywhere there are signs saying “Children must be attended at all times.” Inevitably, there are two children running full steam up and down the aisles screaming pow-pow-bang-bang and the parents are nowhere to be seen.

Finally I hear a woman say, in that not-going-to-back-it-up tone of voice, “Stop running, kids.” I look over and she’s not even looking at the kids to show seriousness; she’s entralled by some blouse. After ten minutes, much running, much screaming, much knocking over of things, and four empty threats, I take my book purchases up to the counter. Four Hemingways and three Faulkners at 75 cents apiece (goodwill rocks).

There is only one employee working out front, and she looks very frazzled from constantly picking up the things the banshees from hell are knocking over. I set my books up and she rushes over. I nod at one of the “unattended children” signs, and say loudly: “I guess that thing about unattended children is just optional for some people?”

She and a guy shopping nearby let out a cathartic laugh. I don’t know if the non-attender heard it, but, of course, I don’t have kids so I just wouldn’t understand.