I got word that my bank account at a certain nationwide chain was changing my absolutely Free checking account to a $1500 minimum balance account. They informed me that they had already subtracted the first monthly service fee, with many more to come. So I chose to find a branch and close the account, because I never seem to have as much as $1500 ahead.
As I passed through East St. Louis, I got off the highway where Mapquest told me I could find the nearest branch. It was in a very economically depressed neighborhood, in the lobby of a destitute grocery store. I went in and stood in line, with five people between me and the head of the line. First in line was a family: a father who had lost his belt (I assume, because his pants were drooping to his knees and his underwear was in full view); a mother chewing gum and popping bubbles; a restless girl of 5 or 6; and a toddler in a stroller wailing and crying to beat the band.
I felt sorry for the small crying girl and smiled at her. About that time, the father said to the mother, "You better tell that little bitch to shut the hell up right now."
The mother looked down at the crying girl. "You hear that bitch? He says you best shut your mouth. Don't make me tell you again."
But the crying continued, perhaps even louder now. When the little girl looked back my way, I covered my eyes with my hand, then pulled it back quickly revealing my eyes. A simple game of peek-a-boo, like I used to play with my friends' kids. The girl stopped crying immediately, as she was caught off guard by me being silly. I continued to do this, unnoticed by anyone but the little tyke, and she seemed fascinated. Her mouth formed into a big "O" and she just stared and stared. I added little flourishes to up the ante, and the more I did it, the more she liked it.
Before long, her older sister noticed me also, and she began to smile. About this time, the younger girl began to giggle very softly. And as I continued, her laughter grew infectious, and her older sis joined in. They just thought this goofy older guy was the funniest thing they had seen all day. They giggled and chuckled and gurgled, and I was glad I could make them happier. Better a happy child than a screaming child.
About that time, the mother looked down at the tiny girl to see what she was laughing about. She followed the little girl's eyeline until she saw me, and took a moment to watch what I was doing. And then she spoke to me rather forcefully. "Hey! Stop making them laugh. We don't like laughter."
I was both embarrassed and a bit confused. But I did stop, immediately, and looked off in the other direction. I stayed in line for 20 more minutes, and after I closed the account I was back into my car and on my way. In a way, I felt sort of sad as I drove away. I maintain that there is too much bad stuff in the world, and that we can use all the smiles and laughter we can get. Guess not everyone agrees with that.