Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't Talk to Strangers (or Babies)

Cruising through the grocery store the other day with the whole fam damily I had a first-of-its kind exchange. 

Master Blackwell was nestled in the shopping cart (I say nestled because that's exactly what it was. Mrs. Blackwell has a fleece liner that both pads the seat portion of the cart and provides a barrier for our boy's precious little bottom, because god forbid he touch anything that one of the great unwashed might have brushed up against. I digress. Ahemm, he also had a flannel blanket for additional padding.) 

So all in all, the shopping cart is quite a comfy place to be if you're the boy.

Under these most ideal of conditions he frequently gives the appearance of being an affable, happy baby. He smiles a lot. If he's not tired, his eyes stay large and engaged with his surroundings, which includes lots of eye contact with the folks we stroll by. 

So plenty of folks will say "Hi" to him and then my wife and then me — always in that order mind you. 

Public stealth mode. 
For their part, people tend to respond when the boy sends a look or a smile their way. And it's one of the nice things about having a baby with you that people tend to be a tad bit nicer and more forthcoming with pleasantries. 

I suppose it's just more difficult to shove shove Ma Kettle out of the way while reaching for the Oreos if there's a baby watching you. So, plenty of people up their I'm-a-nice-person game in front of the boy.

So the boy is our vehicle to plenty of kind exchanges with people we pass. But, on Sunday, a first.

Instead of a "Hi' directed toward the boy, and instead of asking if he might approach to pat my son, and instead of otherwise forewarning me that he wanted to touch the boy, one brazen dude just went up and did it. 

Outta nowhere, like some phantom mist from the frozen food section this guy just appeared right next to my child. 

He was a round fellow, with a big smile and before I knew what was up, he leaned toward my boy's face, chuckled and said, "Hi there. Hi there," while patting my boy on the back like an old army buddy. 

As quickly as he appeared and, before I could register what was happening, the guy was gone. It was one of those "Did that just happen?" moments. 

Quickly, in some warped version of the five stages of grief I attempted to process just what had occurred.  

I) "Surely my eyes had deceived me. Nobody would just up and pat a stranger's baby on the back."

II) "That did just happen and I'm unimpressed. If that guy was still here I'd smack his face with a bag of bread. Then I'd smack it again. Before offering some witty quip like, "This bakery is closed. Find some other buns to pat." (I'm quite a cool guy in my fantasies.)

III) "I'll work and make sure that doesn't happen again. I'll be vigilant dammit."

IV) "Man, how could I have been such an idiot. I turned my head and boom, my kid gets back-tapped by a human garden gnome. Now I'm sad."

V) "Ok. Nothing bad happened. The guy seemed like a nice guy. These type of things will happen. I just need to prepare for it."
Pictured: The second result of a Google image search for "Bread Weapon."
Yes, god bless him, that man is holding a baguette.


That last stage, acceptance, came within about an hour of the exchange. So, I'm not out of touch with how small this was and I can rationally acknowledge it wasn't a big deal. But, you're also reading the words of a man who seriously deliberated the likelihood of a bird of prey stealing his newborn son out of his arms

Ultimately, the back-tapping, smiley man was probably a good guy who just didn't think twice about saying hi to someone, even though that someone happened to be a nine-month old. 

While that might not be normal, it's also not necessarily a bad thing. That said, strangers coming near my son and I should turn around if they see me reach for the bread. 

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