Kids today are a train smash.
Indulged by doting parents and told they are little gods, I look at the army of the entitled that are filling the ranks of children, tweens and teens and I wonder what the future holds. I’m sure that every generation complains about how little the next one resembles them, and I have friends who are raising outstanding your kids but c’mon you all know what I’m talking about.
However, despite all of this, there is something magic kids can do that transcends any nurturing method, social class or time that we live in.
Paul and I were hanging out having a coffee one day when a particularly loud family took a table next to us. Three kids, all bored, all with next to no interest in being in Santa Monica on a Saturday and fairly vocal with their parents about their extreme lack of enthusiasm for this particular shopping trip. Parents who I might point out have not taught their kids the concept of “restaurant volume”.
Just at the point where I think OK, I’ve had enough, let’s go, the funniest thing happened.
A Parking Officer pulls up in one of those golf cart things that they ride around in and stops next to a car parked there. The car has a Disabled Tag hanging from the rearview mirror, which usually means you can park inside a store if you really feel like it. But lo and behold, the guy gets out and starts writing the car a ticket.
I think it’s far to say that everyone in the world hates Parking Officers. Let’s face it, it’s the douchiest job on the planet. And we’ve all seen those scenes on the side of the road where someone arrives back just in time to see that they’re getting a ticket and they fight for all they are worth to get out of it. But it always goes one of two ways; the person accepts their fate like a mouse stared down by a hungry snake and silently takes the ticket, shooting a death ray look at this brown suited bastard.
Or else, they take the ticket and call the Parking Officer everything under the sun before telling them that they might consider a career change and to get themselves a real job.
Parking Officers are trained to deal with both reactions so that they are water off a duck’s back. As much as I dislike them, I have to admire the fact that they never get ruffled despite the fact that, unlike every other public servant out there, they don’t have a desk and a six-inch thick piece of plexiglass between them and a hostile public.
But on this day something magic happened.
As the Parking Officer prepared to write the guy a ticket, the loud kids from the next table got up to watch. They stood there on the curb, right by the car as the guy punched in $58 worth of pain for the car owner.
The kids said absolutely nothing as they watched, but the sound was deafening.
The Parking Officer clocked them. Then he pretended that he couldn’t see them. He tried very hard to pretend they weren’t there. But children have that wide-eyed stare that can bore into the very core of your soul, because their unjaded little hearts know instinctively what is right and what is wrong.
And this guy could feel it. Five minutes before he was taking silent passive aggressive delight in writing up people who are 3 minutes late getting back to their car. Now he was questioning his very existence.
There was nothing in his training to combat this. Anger, trying to evoke sympathy, even a bribe; these were all things that he was ready for.
But the doe-eyed stare from these kids stripped him bare and found him wanting. As he finally looked at them all watching him, he had a shocking realization that he hadn’t had since his first day on the job 8 years ago; he was a bastard who fined disabled people.
Without a word, the kids had won a moral victory of incredible proportions. They had struck a blow for every single person who couldn’t find enough change, was waylaid by a lackadaisical waiter or just plain had one of those emergencies that life throws at you sometimes.
He finished up his business, guiltily slid the ticket under the windshield and looked at the children one last time as he thought to himself, I had dreams once too.
With that, he climbed into his toy town vehicle and sped away from those truth dealing eyes as fast as he could.
Not one of us could have woven that same magic. I was wrong, the kids are alright.