I worked at a small independent bookstore for several years. We didn't get many people with kids, but once this woman came in with her daughter, a toddler. I don't know where people get the idea that there's some law of physics or mathematics stating "bookstore (or other public place) = free babysitter," but this woman obviously believed it. She sat down in the fiction section to browse and the second she picked up a book, it was like her kid wasn't even there any more so far as she was concerned. Or maybe she felt like she was at home in her own living room, reading while her child entertained herself. The bookstore was one of those places that prided itself on being comfortable and homey. I think the building actually used to be a house.
The kid wasn't a bad sort, I hasten to add. She was cute and perfectly sweet. She wasn't a screamer and she wasn't a destroyer, but she hadn't quite grasped that whole gravity thing -- she was maybe a year and a half old, at most -- and she really did seem to think that she was at home, or at least at somebody's house. Certainly her mother hadn't told her otherwise. So she went about her merry business, looking at all the interesting things around her, while her mother remained obliviously absorbed in a romance novel.
Books are made of paper and tend to tear, fold, and crumple pretty easily. And oddly enough, people walking into a bookstore that sells allegedly new books are put off by merchandise that looks like it did two or three rounds in a boxing ring. So after several minutes of bulging my eyes in a hinting and increasingly frantic manner at the mother, I began quietly following the little girl and doing what damage control I could. I picked up the books she'd knocked over or dropped, repaired displays, and steered her away as best I could from the cases of delicate items the bookstore also sold. The little girl was perfectly nice and didn't mind my occasional quiet guidance at all, which steamed my clams because if she'd behave that well with me, a total stranger, surely she would have been fine if Mommy -- you remember her, the one who was supposed to be guiding this cute little life -- had given her some appropriate direction.
This went on for a good half hour or more. I was the only one in the store, and so I was spending every second I could spare away from the cash register or customers who needed help trying to keep the store from looking like a small but determined earthquake had just hit it.
All of a sudden, the mom looked up. The little girl had just knocked something over with her elbow, and I guess that sound finally got her attention. At any rate, the mother looked over at the fallen books, looked at me, and said, "She didn't do that."
I was too surprised (and annoyed) to say the first thing that popped into my mind, which of course was "How the [bleep] would you know?" I just stared back at her and said something like, "Whatever you say."
Has anyone but me noticed that this is the kind of person who never buys anything? If I were going to turn a toddler-tornado loose on a place, I'd at least drop some dough.