Meltdown in three, two, one, …

“Speak louder! The man can’t hear you when you mumble.” the mother barked at her little boy without looking up from her iPhone. Her young sons cringed and looked timidly at the vitrine full of meats and cheeses, each adorned with a calligraphic label the boys couldn’t so much as read, let alone pronounce or request. The younger boy, probably not yet 4, said something and pointed at some salami.

“What? Do you think he heard you?” the mother asked, turning now from her iPhone to lean over and reprimand the boy while windmilling her right arm in the general direction of the worker behind the counter. The boys huddled together, perhaps in solidarity. The mother quickly returned to her iPhone, jabbing at it with her index finger.

I understand. It’s late. You’re frustrated and tired at the end of a rough day. You need to get food for dinner and perhaps lunches tomorrow. You need to get home, feed the progeny, get them ready for and into bed. They’re tired and hungry. But you are not helping the situation by barking at your kids and poking at your iPhone. Please stop for a minute. Take a deep breath. Put the phone away. It’s in everybody’s best interest—yours, your kids’, mine, the employees’ here, everybody’s.

Too late. Moments later, the younger son lost it. Complete meltdown in the cereal aisle spills over into the chips aisle and lingers through the checkout line.

#2 turned to me and said: “He’s sad.” You’re right, I thought, he is sad.

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