I’m a 5th generation Californian, so I tend to stay mellow about most things. Okay, that is not exactly accurate: I experience my fair share of frustrations, but I am inclined to compartmentalize and let them go. It takes an awful mess of traffic, for example, to move me from pressing my fingers to my forehead to fantasizing about cuss words and spike strips for cars that don’t play by the rules. When people send bad vibes my way, I take it personally at first…until I don’t. Most of the time I am slow to anger. In fact, I’ve been asked a few times by close friends what makes me angry, since I seem so darn chipper all the time. The truth is that yes, I am one of those annoyingly optimistic people who is genuinely grateful for her life; the only trait that saves me is that I have a wry sense of humor about it.

Readers of this blog know that I usually choose to deploy my words only in celebration of what is good. Words have power to tear down or to build up, and for those of us in a deeply intimate relationship with language (without writing I cannot breathe; without books I would cease to be myself) there is at every second a choice to be made about how to arrange those words and to what effect and purpose. One word can mean tears; another can create hope. With rhetoric our narratives are made; with language our lives leave liminal space and become more material. Words make our history. Putting an event into words is an act of choosing which memories to keep. In fact, I hesitate to tell the following story because it was, by far, not the important part of the day. So many other positive events happened that I do question the value of sharing this story.

Yet here we go.

jamba

Here we are enjoying our Jamba Juice smoothies at the Aquarium of the Pacific today for Katie’s field trip. A delicious 250 calorie lunch. We’re smiling; we’re ready for the next part of our adventure.

Now rewind ten minutes.

As I approach the outdoor smoothie bar, I see about ten children (I am guessing 4th graders) in a row along the wall and by the service window. Looks like a line to me, or at least a darn good impression of a line. Some of them are clearly getting smoothies: their money is out, and it is near lunch time. I do admit to some difficulty ascertaining the line order, but it is no big deal. The day is beautiful, I’m having fun with my children as I watch their faces light up repeatedly at the beauty we’re seeing, the beach air is peaceful, no worries.

The children and the line will sort itself out…anyone can see that. We’re here for a children’s field trip, and it is a day for learning. I walk up with Eric in the stroller and hover just a small way back from the children, but facing the counter. I want to give them their due space. When it seems like the children are done, when it seems like it is my turn, I will go forward. There is absolutely no hurry.

It’s not like a smoothie is a life and death kind of situation.

Except apparently it is, to the woman who comes up behind me.

Out of my peripheral vision, I see her head at a jaunty tilt surveying the scene. The tension in her body pings me right in the gut. Oh great.

“Are you in LINE?” she interrogates.

“Oh. Yes.”

A pregnant pause if ever there was one. “Well, if I were you, I would move up.”

There must have been a quizzical look on my face. Oh, who appointed you Line Master? (No, I didn’t say it).

She gestures toward the kids. “You’re next, so you should move up.”

I actually try to reason with this woman, “Well, those girls were here first. They were ahead of me.”

The woman gives a little exasperated sigh as if to say, “They are just kids.”

The boys in front of me finish paying and start—START—moving to the side with their smoothies.

“Go! It’s your turn!”

(What does she want me to do? Squish them? Run them out of town? Get all up in their personal space? Cut in line in front of the little girls?)

“Actually, those girls were here first,” I repeated. To the girls, I asked, “Girls, are you planning to order a smoothie?”

The woman shot them a peeved look, and they scampered away.

Now, here’s where, if I could revise this story, I would have said or done any number of more heroic things than I actually did. The extent of my powers was to roll my eyes, bristle all along my back, and pretend the woman no longer had any existence in my universe. Oh, and to plan to avenge the wrong by writing this blog later.

My mom, infinitely more classy and better at directing people toward self-reflection, later suggested that I could have said, “Please go ahead of me. It seems that you are in a hurry to order a smoothie.” Or something like that.

Or possibly— “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”—would have worked, too. I have that one memorized at least.

Even I was surprised by how angry I was at this…interlude. As mellow as I can be about most things, I have an overdeveloped justice/injustice mechanism. This is probably why I also prize mercy. (I have to balance myself out somehow). I was livid that that woman was so willing to discount those children. Imagine, being a fourth grader on your field trip figuring out how to spend your lunch money, working on your independence. I’ve been there. We all have. Does anyone remember what it felt like to have an adult discount them?

I felt like that woman wanted me to pretend they weren’t even there, to give those girls no chance. No time for thinking about what they wanted to do or not to do. No time for pondering and working through an independent decision. The woman’s idea was, clearly, “We’re adults, so we can go first. We’re bigger, so we can bully and cut.” An injustice.

That’s just not how I play in my schoolyard. I hate it when I run into adults who treat children as sub-human. Those girls had just as much right to be there pondering a smoothie as any adult.

Here is where, if it weren’t 11:03 PM, I would re-read this post, tighten it up, and offer a walloping conclusion. A call to action. A little bit of hope. Some value with which to snuggle up. But this is all I’ve got right now, friends. Injustice makes me angrier than anything else possibly could.

And I am the Jamba Juice Avenger.

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