I was in Staples last week, picking up a four-pack of Uniball pens I didn’t need because they were on sale for 99 cents. Eventually I will need a pen, or one of my descendants will.
I was waiting, in no particular hurry, behind two women with a boy of about 5. There was some problem with the mother’s credit card. By the Cash Register is a little tree of Tootsie Pop-style lollipops, and the young gentleman wants one. “No” the mother says, but in a language that is incomprehensible to the boy, though clear enough to all adults. As mother swaps out a different card the boy plucks a pop from the tree and slips behind Mom, giving me one of those “I could spew pea-soup if I wanted to” looks.
The sucker is still wrapped, but the boy is licking it lovingly, wetly. The mother sees this, tells the lad she had told him “no” and returns the lollipop to the tree. I have never yet done my lollipop shopping in Staples and I am confident now that I never will. While the mother tries to get a pen working on the credit slip, the boy plucks the lollipop again and applies tongue.
Now there’s some difficulty requiring a manager, and the mother with a little more heat tells the boy that he doesn’t deserve the lollipop given some previous misadventures at Wal*Mart. “But I want it” is the extent of his argument, but it’s evidently persuasive. The lollipop returns to the tree, the sales is finalized, the child whines, and from out of nowhere swoops in Mother’s friend, who I think of as the aunt. She plucks the wetly wrapped lollipop and another one off the display and plops two one dollar bills on the counter.
“Two!?” says Mom as the aunt hands them to the young gent and they leave the store. Now all done rather discreetly: no fits or tears or violence. But is this why, every semester, I find myself warning students that some error or behavior or plagiarist activity will produce a failing grade and they some weeks later react with astonishment when it does?