Way To Go! Playing Ball At The Supermarket

February 24, 2012
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I’m sitting at the counter at the Red Bank Super Foodtown enjoying a seafood roll and a Coke for breakfast and watching some of the most creative driving I’ve ever seen as I face Broad Street just beyond the parking lot.
I’m watching SUVs back in to spaces at 30 mph, counting how many cars drive up on the cement divider on their way out of the lot…you get the picture,
Then I heard a Mom exclaim, from her position at the checkout counter, “Way to go!”
Her three young children were busy with the pink and purple balls piled high in a cage with enough openings to allow small hands to reach in and grab a ball – to throw, to bounce and to aim high at the top, fully open part of the cage.
Did I say that the balls were priced at $1.99 and $4.99? The fact that the word “Free” was nowhere to be seen is (conveniently) irrelevant. “Way to go!” – one of the energetic tots made a “basket.”

“Way to go!”? How about “Look, you kids, stand there like ladies and gentleman until I pay for this stuff!”? No, no. That’s old. That’s wrong. Never, ever stifle creativity or the impulse to recreate, even in a public place of business.

Same thing happened at another favorite Monmouth County haunt, Barnes & Noble. I may not be munching on a seafood roll while at the food court, but my senses will be similarly jarred when I watch a young Dad encourage his son to “run!” Doesn’t matter that the kid could get hurt, hurt someone else, or that a book store, like a library, is supposed to be a quiet, orderly place. No. That aisle connecting the teen novels and sports books is just too tempting. (I guess it’s appropriate in Dad’s mind because his six year old will end up by the
“Introduction To Marathon Running” tomes).

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Back to Red Bank: I’m eating a worldclass pizza when a Mom and Pop enter the restaurant with a tiny tot. I’m thinking…will they discipline this kid? I hope so because I refuse to get indigestion in consideration of this excellent repast. I don’t want to hear drumbeats on the tables or primal screams, even if they are in tempo.

So far, so good. But, what’s this? Mom is on one side of their booth and Dad and boy are on the other, yet Mom cannot resist showing her affection to the boy – she leans forward, son does the same – smack! – she kisses him on the lips. Dad appears to be in a daze.
The natural affection is affecting. But will it be two or three generic antacids in about 15 minutes? I would approve of Mom stroking the little guy’s hair and doing a high-five. I could not have handled watching her kiss Dad.

Sometimes I go to a popular “chain” fast food place where I enjoy a variety of heavily salted items and sometimes look up at the monitors, which have cable shows I gave up watching at home to save about $45 a month. If O’Reilly or ESPN get tiresome, I can look through the glass and see the kiddies play on the special apparatus (I would have loved that twisted up tube thing when I was seven).

What confuses me is the protocol involved. Are the children encouraged to play before, during, or after they eat? At any rate, they’re loud and boisterous. Aw…just kids. You know what? Let ‘em even run through the booth area…just so they don’t feel limited to the playground section.

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Call me a misanthrope. But when did the “living room” extend to…all rooms? Why is a public place just another place to nurture, another setting to reinforce that all-encompassing self-esteem program?

I leave all sociological explanations to those who make a few bucks doing so.

Gotta go back for a second. I want to give credit where credit is due. The above-mentioned supermarket does have a public service announcement that tells parents to control their kids. Like, no running or standing in shopping carts. Unfortunately, the friendly but stern voice-over does not say “and do not play ball with the ‘play-balls”’ – until Mom buys one for you and you’re in your backyard or at the beach…

Former Red Bank resident Phil Silverman now reads his TRT in Laguna Beach, Ca.

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