Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It Was An Accident – In More Ways Than One

© 2009 Leighann Lord

So I’m strolling through Wal-Mart when a little boy – no older than three – pedals a bicycle straight into me. I say "a" bicycle and not "his" bicycle because with large tags still swinging from plastic wrapped handle bars I assume the bike had not yet been purchased. Apparently the tot was on a loosely supervised test drive. It’s worth noting this incident occurred in the electronics department, which is no where near the toy department.

Technically, the kid hit a shopping cart first which bought me time to jump back and be missed by inches. The child was fine. My shins were unscathed. My toes remained intact. The boy’s "mother" half heartedly said, "Uh oh. Watch out." I don’t know if she was talking to me, her spawn or the owner of the aggrieved shopping cart.

Sometimes the best response is none at all so I kept silent, in retrospect too silent. I didn’t offer the woman an "Oh-that’s-okay-you-know-how-children-are" smile. I kept the expression on my face blank, too blank. I’m sure it spoke disapproving volumes to the woman who reached – belatedly – for her bike wielding brat. She said to me, rather icily, "It was an accident." Again I was unsure. Was she talking about the child’s conception, his actions or her Laissez Faire style of parental oversight?

It might have been an accident if I had been walking through a park play ground; but I was in a store, a place of business. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that good parents don’t let their children ride bicycles indoors, up and down store aisles because someone – maybe even their little cherub – might get hurt. And the parents who do let their kids run amok are usually the first ones to sue everyone in sight when junior takes a tumble.

If I was older and less agile I could have kissed my knee caps goodbye. Anybody with a joint injury will tell you, it’s never the same once the knees go. What if I had lost my balance, fell and hit my head? Chances are I’d die while my insurance plan debated the merits of a cat scan versus Tylenol.

What’s truly troubling is that the fruit never falls far from the tree. Does this mom drive her car with equal disregard and abandon? What carnage has her vehicular carelessness caused? Will she offer the same lame excuse in her own defense? "It was an accident, Officer." Question is, would her child be with her in the car or would she have left him behind, pedaling through the Wal-mart electronics department?

Maybe I’m wrong and this has nothing to do with unruly children, poor parenting skills or a decline in public decorum. Maybe this is just a sign from the universe that I should switch to decaf, stay spry and shop at Target.

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