Thursday, July 21, 2005

in the way

This morning I’m in line at Dunkin’ Donuts (mmm…donuts) and there’s this Mom there with her three kids, all of them wearing t-shirts that say “Martha’s Vineyard” on them, which of course leads me to coldly and silently label them, “Yuppie Fam on Vay-Kay.” Yuppie mom has a tall order, which takes quite a while for the two DD employees to assemble. She’s changing her order here and there, asking her three kids “what kind of bagel? What kind of cream cheese? Orange or apple juice, Cameron?” At the very end you hear the desperation in her voice as she orders “and I need an iced hazelnut, large!”

All the while, of course, the line is getting longer and longer behind her. I’m not really impatient with this because I know what it’s like to be her…sort of. You can’t help but take some time when you’re ordering for 5 or 6 people, so I’m just standing there. But periodically, the oldest boy keeps looking back at me with this look on his face which I can only describe with dialogue such as: “Are you mad?” I could tell by the way he was watching his mom and his nervous side stepping in place that he was anxious to get out of everyone’s way. And I thought…how interesting. This is a conscientious kid…almost to the point of unhealthy. He’s too young to be worrying about this.

His mother finally finishes ordering, and she’s trying to stuff her change back in her wallet, put away her purse, grab these boxes of food, and slide her children out of the way of people. And here’s her oldest son, practically pushing everything off to the side, including his siblings, and saying things like “Mom, you’re in the way, you’re in the way.” He’s not rude, just a teeny bit anxious. And because of his attitude I was more anxious to show him that I was not mad that they were in front of me taking time, so I smiled and gave them extra room before I walked up to the counter.

This kid reminds me of me sometimes. Maybe too concerned, at times, of imposing or intruding on others. I wondered what this boy was going to be like as an adult. Would he still be aware of the feelings of others around him? Will he still care like he does? Or will the world teach him sooner than later to take care of number one?

What made him this way? Is it something to do with him being the eldest? Is it just his personality? Is he perhaps treated with a different set of expectations by his parents, which causes him to be hyper-conscientious? Mr. Anticipatory? Mr. Pleaser?

All I know is I saw something of me in this kid, and I felt his pain.
I randomly came across your blog - I felt this related to me in possibly the same way the childs concern related to you...I was very concerned when you said that he kept looking back at you with such concern...he is too young...yet I remember feeling the same kinds of anxiety when I was a child about my parents...and life in general. Stay out of the way, don't intrude, take care to be careful...then life jaded me.
Yes! Life has a way of jading us out of that pure desire to want others to be contented.

I was a pleaser as a child, terrified of getting into trouble with teachers, parents, friends, anyone. I hit college and basically told the world to bug off. Now I'm in my early thirties, and I'm starting to try and find a balance between the two extremes.

So glad you wrote in! Stay in touch.
Dude, I missed this one. It's really good. I feel like I've been in that situation before. With adults though. Never a kid. That's crazy. I too try and make it no big deal. But I think I feel like the kid too, like everyone. I have this friend who particularly does nice things for me- practical favor type stuff like do my dishes, pick up stuff for me at the store on her way or whatever- and I try and stop her or apologize or express my not wanting to make her do anything for me. And she gets mad and tells me to shut up and gets annoyed because it's not a big deal. And she's right, I need to let her, and I need to keep on giving, too. That old saying, give and take. It's ok to take, too! Very good post, Richard! Wow!
You are an interesting person. If people (namely men) thought as hard or as carefully about their day to day happenings, I truly believe the world would be a better place. Instead there are the people who have no idea they're bothering the minimum wage employee or long lineup. Without people like you (and me, I definitely relate to you and count myself among the race of thinkers) these people have no idea what they're even doing wrong! It's sad that such a young guy was so obviously affected by the others around him, but sadly he is just preparing for his lifetime of being afraid of judgement. I think his behaviour is more of a statement about or idiotic culture than about his upbringing specifically. I feel for him, and wish him well.
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