There’s No Good Answer

What do you do when someone else’s kid throws a tantrum?  What if it’s not just any tantrum, not an omg-I’ve-waiting-in-line-overnight-but-they-ran-out-of-the-newest-iFadphone-just-before-me tantrum, not even an omg-they-handed-out-free-iPads-and-I-didn’t-get-one meltdown, but a full on hey-this-is-something-I-actually-care-about* psychotic break?

There’s never a correct reaction to one of these.  Smile, and you’re condescending.  Grimace or complain, and you’re an uptight grownup who’s obviously never had kids and can’t sympathize with anyone who has.  Stare straight forward, and you’re cold hearted bastard ignoring the profound human tragedy unfolding before you in 14 acts and 27 octaves.  Avoid making eye contact, and you’re the lazy bum shirking his societal obligation to help.    Try to help, and you’re interfering with someone else’s kid (and also run the risk of picking up the next designer strain of Streptococcal Spoiledbratius from the bawling germ factory).**

What to do?

The tyke (5? 6 years old?) started off running circles around the subway pole, little hand gathering untold biological filthiness from the epitome of uncleanliness in the New York subway system.  His mom shrieked at him to stop, and after a half-hearted attempt of dragging him away from the pole, she couldn’t even and retreated to her seat.  The urchin, having won his hard fought battle to go back to the pole, instead flopped backwards on the subway floor, rolling on the wet floor (it wasn’t raining) and howling at the injustice of it all to every subway rider trying very hard to ignore the calamity unfolding.  After a few minutes of not drawing any reaction from anyone, the kid leapt up and turned his attention to the subway doors alternating between trying to pull open the doors of the subway car and pounding on the glass, screaming that he must get off of the speeding express train.  All the while, his mom stared straight ahead like every other passenger.

Ugh.  I wasn’t going to say anything.  I really wasn’t.  I’ve been in New York long enough.  I know the rules… except someone had obviously (but not obvious enough to the mom studiously ignoring her raucous brat) vomited on the doors in the early morning, and the little monster was banging his little hands right into the congealed spray pattern, little chunks either clinging to his grubby hands or flying everywhere.

“Um… you might not want your son to play in someone else’s subway vomit.”

A glare.  A yank of her son’s arm by a mother who has transcended discipline.  Smiles from the other passengers.  Did I do the right thing?


*Just kidding, Apple fans. My portfolio cares. I care.

**Cookie, you had the right answer.  You slept through it all.  Sleep is the correct reaction to a meltdown.

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