On Tuesday of this week, I picked up a car in Richmond that was headed for Knoxville. Since I was in Richmond, I called my old girlfriend Karen to see if I could come visit her at her new Café there. But once again, she didn’t answer her cell phone and there was no reply to my voicemail messages. I was beginning to wonder what had happened to her. So, I went ahead and got started on my trip.
Once in Knoxville, Tennessee I found myself delayed on the delivery. I had planned to deliver at noon as determined by the customer. But at the last minute the man called and said he couldn’t be home until 4pm, so I would have to wait until then to meet him. It kind of messed up my plans for getting out of town, but there was nothing I could do about it.
I decided to make the most of my time. I found a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins hybrid, where I knew I could indulge in an iced coffee and free Wifi. I got onto the Internet and plotted out a new game plan for getting out of Knoxville since the timing had changed.
A poor Black family came in and sat down. At least they seemed poor, with ragged clothes and carrying their possessions in Hefty trash bags. The two children were somewhere between 3 and 5 years old I would guess, and they were shouting for ice cream. Their Father said, “I ain’t got no money to get you no ice cream, now hush.” The Mother walked up to the counter and asked for four cups of ice water, and the cashier had a patronizing attitude as she served them up.
Kids will be kids, and these particular children were full of beans. They ran around the place in circles, yelling and whooping it up. I have noticed this as a phenomenon all over America, that kids run around out of control screaming and the parents say nothing. This is not isolated to any particular section of society, I’ve seen Whites and Blacks and Hispanics and Asians, rich and poor. The thing of it is, when I was a kid I would not have even considered behaving like this in a public place. And if I had, my Mom would have whipped my butt harshly. I certainly could run like a maniac and scream my head off, but in my own backyard or perhaps a public park.
Yet I could not begrudge these kids from just having some fun. The world is such a crazy place, and who knows what tomorrow will bring? So I say let them be wild and have fun. Besides, they could not even afford an ice cream cone, so they deserved all the wild fun and frivolity that life could afford them.
As I continued working, the children began to run into the counter and freezer doors, kicking things and banging things. Their screams began to get even more frenzied. I finished my work on the Internet, and packed up my laptop and prepared to leave. As I headed for the door, I stopped. Something inexplicable overcame me, and I walked back to the cashier.
“You want something else?” she asked, seeming somewhat perturbed.
“Yes,” I said. I lowered my voice. “I’d like to buy four ice cream cones.”
“Four? For you? You want four for you?”
“No ma’am. I’d like to treat that family there to four cones.”
“How do you know they’re a family?”
“Well, I… I guess I just assumed.”
“I see. Why you want to do that?”
I shrugged. “How much do I owe you?” She rang me up and I paid for it. “Please just wait until I leave and then ask them what flavors they want.”
As I started to walk out, the kids had reached a whole new level of loud wildness. The Father had been ignoring them up to now, but stood up and yelled, “You children need to calm down, you are too wild! Where do you think you are, Sunday church service?”
I wondered as I walked out the door what kind of church service they attended. One where people ran around in circles screaming. Pentecostal, maybe? I got into the car and started the engine, but sat and watched as the cashier gave the news of free ice cream to the Father. He ran out the front door and looked around, but did not see me sitting in the car across the street. He looked up at the sky and said something then winked broadly. I presumed he was thanking God for the treat for his family. Personally, I was just thankful that I had enough money in my pocket to put a tiny ray of sunshine into this family’s day.