No, this is not another garden essay, although I do have to do something about the bleeding heart. They're getting old...
But this is another matter. Tonight I am worrying about a 7 year-old boy named Joey.
Joey and His Friend came into the store today. I checked their groceries through, and His Friend, a 40-ish man who seemed to have lived a hard life, did not have enough money to pay. He was about $3 short. He said, "If it's OK, I'll just run get more money." I said it would be OK, and off he went, leaving Joey with the groceries.
Now, most people would have meant they were going out to the car, and that is what I assumed. But, no, this Friend left Joey at the store while he drove home for money. I didn't know this. Neither did the lady behind them in line. We waited, me cooing over her toddler boy, she asking about some specials...and Joey anxiously looking out the door. I noticed that he ran to the door about three times, then out the door. When he came in, said, "I can't find him," and began crying, I went to the parking lot with him. That's when we realized he had left.
Joey didn't know His Friend's phone number, nor where he lived (except that it was in the town where the store is, and that Joey actually lived in another town, just over the Illinois-Wisconsin border.) He did tell me his mother's name, stepfather's name, and where he lived...but he didn't know any phone numbers, or the street address.
My manager was no help, telling me that she had customers to help and couldn't help me with the increasingly frantic little boy. Checking through the nice lady with the toddler, I headed to the office to try and call mom. Surely she'd care that this friend had left her son in a grocery store? But, although we searched several phone books and tried to reach directory assistance, we never found a working number.
His Friend, whose name I still do not know, returned. It had been about 20 minutes. He claimed it was "only 5." He told Joey, "I would never leave my food, Bud, and I would never leave you." We looked like a bunch of fussy hens to him, I suppose, and they left. It was the hardest thing I could do, to let him go off with that man, but I had no one to back me up. The kid came in with him, so the kid had to leave with him.
About 20 minutes later, the police showed up. Someone--most likely Toddler Lady, we decided--had called. Finally someone at the store decided to step up for the boy; my manger (remember the one who had customers?) told the officer that "That man was intoxicated." About the only positive thing I could say about the guy was he probably was not. The officer thanked us for caring, and left.
I wonder if I'll sleep tonight?
If you have young children, (remember, Joey is 7) please teach them the basics. Kids as young as 4 can memorize their names, addresses and phone numbers. If nothing else, write it on the inside of a piece of clothing.
And for the sake of all you consider holy, keep kids under 10 with you. They're too young to go off with Your Friends, unless they know those things. Bad Things can happen, even to your kid.