Two nights ago, I took my oldest, The Scientist, to Target so he could spend his birthday money on Nerf blasters and Tech Decks (little finger skateboards with cool designs underneath that, I am assured by my children, are the toy to have at school).
Naturally, I do not enter Target without also browsing through the clearance in each section of interest to me (you know...handbags, accessories, clothing, shoes...). It didn't take long for The Scientist to announce his boredom and arrange to meet up with me in the toy department when I was finished rumaging through hoodies marked down to $3 each.
I let him go. It's more fun for everyone that way.
My browsing was cut short, however, by a young mother with a furious toddler captured inside her cart. The little girl was screaming at the top of her lungs and, while I couldn't understand most of what she said, the volume conveyed her meaning with exquisite clarity.
The mother, while undoubtedly taking the wisest course of action by simply ignoring her daughter's tantrum rather than pandering to it, was also ignoring an important bylaw in the handbook of Shopping Etiquette.
The one that states that if your precocious youngster decides to test the strength and endurance of their lungs in an all-out screaming session in the middle of any retail establishment, you have 45 seconds to get said youngster under control before you must exit the premises for the sake of every other shopper in the building.
You have to endure your toddler. I don't.
At least that's the generally accepted rule of courtesy.
This mother, however, calmly walked through the women's section, ignoring the screams even as they reached a decibel that set my teeth on edge and no doubt alerted every canine in the vicinity to her presence.
I was not pleased.
I left the women's section and wandered through handbags. I could still hear her but at least my ears were no longer ringing. Unfortunately, the mother also decided to peruse handbags and the little noisemaker followed right on my heels.
I went to accessories.
I began to wonder if a conspiracy was afoot. I searched my brain for a time when I had somehow violated the sacred Shopping Etiquette bylaw thus deserving my current circumstances.
I'm happy to say that, while my kids tried their share of tantrum throwing as toddlers, I was one of those mothers who would leave a full cart of groceries behind rather than subject other shoppers to my own spawn.
This mother was oblivious to the discomfort level of the other shoppers. Perhaps she was a miserable puddle of embarassment inside but needed to prove a point to her daughter, even if it meant she could never return to this particular Target without wearing a wig and sunglasses. Or perhaps her ears had been abused so much at home, she didn't actually hear the piercing screams of rage emanating from inside her cart.
I left accessories (even entertained the fleeting thought that I should crawl behind various displays so as not to leave an obvious trail for the mother to follow...) and headed for my personal sanctuary: shoes.
I was there for maybe a minute before I heard the unmistakable approach of oblivious mother and screaming toddler. I was about to make a rather snarky suggestion to the mother when the little girl suddenly fell silent.
Had the mother finally given in to the tantrum? Had the child exhausted herself? Were the shopping gods finally satisfied that I had paid penance for my imagined wrongs?
The cart came into my view and I saw the little girl sitting up, staring in wide-eyed wonder at rows of gorgeous heels in patent, linen, and glossy red.
"Shoes?" She said in an adorable baby-girl voice. "Mama, shoes?"
"Yes, shoes." The mother said absently, clearly not giving this moment the weight it deserved.
"Shoes." The little girl sighed and smiled happily as her mother pushed the cart through the department.
I caught her eye and smiled, one shoe lover to another.
The mother, apparently not sharing her daughter's affection for footwear, left the department before I did, heading toward books. The little girl watched as Shoe Wonderland was left in her wake.
Ten seconds later, the screaming commenced.