Sometimes you overhear a conversation that crystalizes the radically different points of view that come from different generations. Was I being nosy? You betcha, but at the same time, I feel I should be given a pass because, after all, the one offering his career idea had been kicking the back of my booth.
I should point out that he appeared to be about five. And his Me-maw (Lord, I hope it was his Me-maw and I haven't insulted a mother that simply had a child later in life) reprimanded him for his kicking. Actually, I was glad to have a diversion from the complimentary Greek doughnut that comes with every meal at my local hang out. I’ve never really wanted one, you see, and I go there specifically to try to be healthy, at least three times a week, and order a healthy Greek salad for lunch. But the Greek grandmother, recently imported to join her State-side family, not speaking a word of English, has suddenly found herself away from her homeland, surrounded by all this strange South Carolinaness, and in a gallant attempt to have something to do, has stationed herself by the fryer in the kitchen, insisting each diner receive one of her doughnuts. The thought of her despairing, should her granddaughter return to the kitchen after my decline of her offer, saying, “No, yiayia, she doesn’t want one," just kills me. And so the point of trying to be healthy with my salad choice gets promptly chucked out the window as the doughnut, which resembles an exceedingly large hushpuppy, complete with chocolate or maple topping, is placed before me.
When the child stopped kicking the back of my seat, I turned to smile at him in gratitude and found him, leaning backwards in his seat, and with the flexibility inherent in children, stretching his neck backwards, so that he was staring back at me with his face upside down, his eyes huge and suspicious as if sizing me up.
“Hello,” I said.
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He didn’t reply and his (I’m just going to say guardian at this point) guardian suggested he sit up straight.
As I returned ruefully to my doughnut, I heard him throw out the gambit, “You know what I’m going to be when I grow up?”
“No,” she said.
“One of those people on TV that say things.”
Oh, God, I thought, not profanely, but with the utter despair in finding what was once comfortably consistent, i.e., children proclaiming that they were going to be either a fireman, doctor, nurse, or astronaut had become so influenced by a culture of reality shows, that they just assumed it was a normal career (until you ascend the presidency).
And then I remembered that’s what I did for a living. Granted, being a comic and, later, a sitcom actress is a bit different, but to a 5-year-old (or perhaps even a 55-year-old) I’ve certainly been ‘one of those people on TV that say things.’
Sighing, I took a bite of the doughnut, scraping the chocolate off to the side.
“You know,” the boy went on to explain, suddenly lifting my heart. “Those people that talk about things that happen.”
“You mean a reporter?” his guardian asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “A reporter.” he liked the way it sounded as he repeated it a couple more times.
Now, you’re talking, I thought. Now I can see you studying journalism (I did that too before I dropped out of college) and covering wars and the violation of human rights and political cover ups and….
“‘Cause they get to go to all the football games!” he finished stating his case.
I spread the chocolate back on and ate the whole thing.
Reach PAM STONE at firstname.lastname@example.org.