That Time of The Year…

Back To School

“BUT I WANT IT!!! I WANT IT!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA….” The sharp piercing screams nearly blow out my eardrums. I can’t see who it is, but it sounds like a little boy around 6-ish.

“I said NO,” snapped the person who I assumed to be his mother. “I already told you. You have several. I’m not getting you any more.”

“BUT (gasps for air) I (sobbing loudly) WANT IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTT!!!!!!!”

I’m the next aisle over, working the pallet onto the floor, in the ever-popular Back-To-School section of Phipp’s. It’s been up since July 4, right when the kids got out. Loads of sour faces greeted me when I first tidied up the aisles, but now, the palpable rush of panic and dread replaced their earlier attitude.

Though I’m sorely tempted to peek around the corner, even pretend to be straightening up wayward file folders, I resist. After all, the department’s packed and the kid’s got a ready audience for his show-stopping outburst. I hear the unmistakable thwop of a body dropping to floor tiles, followed by the smack of hurled marble composition tablets. He’s making a huge mess that I’ll have to clean up later.

The mother rushes over and demands, “Calm down now! I said NO. And now I’m angry. Get up! We’re leaving.” She walks away, her sandals snick-snicking as she deserts him, raving and sobbing.

Sure. Leave him for me. I adore children, especially when they’re redefining the limits of acceptable social behavior.

“I CAN’T CALM DOWN. I WANT ‘EM.” The kid’s now hysterical. I picture a gasping, snot-faced brat with a face red and puffy from screeching.

But what is it that’s making this kid go insane? What is it he has to have? What is that one thing that’s going to shut him up once and for all? The electric John Deere tractor? Paw Patrol paraphernalia? A new skin for his favorite Fortnite character? A first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses? 

The kid comes running past me with a pair of scissors, headed for his mom. The brown and black handles are shaped to resemble a basketball pattern. Retail value: $1.49.

I can’t remember exactly what the outcome of that intriguing episode was, because moments later another kid comes whirring into the department, riding an electric scooter, and not very well. His crutches are propped up behind where he sits. He casts his gaze at the camouflage binders and turns the corner to drive up to them.

And normally, that wouldn’t be an issue. Except this kid couldn’t steer it. AT ALL.

I hear the unmistakable sound of two fixtures toppling over. I arrive just in time to see an assemblage of extra locker shelves, magnetic mirrors, plastic storage containers and crayons fly outward, as if someone tossed a stick of dynamite into the heap. The kid stops momentarily to assess the damage, then attempts to back up, bashing quite violently into another fixture filled with pens, pencils and erasers. This, too, meets the same fate. He’s determined to take out as many fixtures as his electric cart and his inept steering allows.

“OHMYGODDDDDDD!” A woman rushes in, her face a salad of horror, disgust, fury and embarrassment. The kid glances at her, then continues to back up over the heap of distressed school supplies.

“Sorry,” the kid says, unconvincingly. There isn’t an ounce of remorse in his voice. He gazes around and and begins to squeeze the power handles once more, preparing to finish off the notebooks and three-ringed binders.

The mother rushes over to the mess and bellows a mixture of curse words and language appropriate for someone whose child has destroyed a goodly portion of a store department and might be liable for damages.

The kid goes, “But I just want to—”

Mother yells, “Shut up! NO! STAY STILL!!!!!” She drops to her knees and clutches anything within grasp. I get it. She wants to help. I find polite words tell her to leave it alone because she’s on her way to make an even bigger mess than her kid already did.

I call on my walkie for assistance, explaining the unlikelihood of the complete and utter destruction of back-to-school. My boss comes over and brings another person. Within moments, things look pretty much the way they were.

I glance at my watch: 9:30 am. Great. I’m only here until 5:00…

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