Friday, March 22, 2013

Pet Not-So-Smart

In yesterday's post, I talked about going to the dinosaur (or technically, prehistory) museum with my nephew and two preschool strangers. I don't know if I talked about how strange it was to be in a position of authority with those kids, and to have them (and other adults) look to me as the responsible one. I know I mentioned the slightly less than responsible act of losing one of those children, but I don't know if I talked about not knowing what I was supposed to do while driving them.

For example, the one four year old that had a carseat had one of those crotch-latches on it with the orange button. I'm talking about the carseat, not the boy. And I was really hesitant to reach down and pull the crotch-latch out from under the boy's bottom because . . . well, I don't know if that's something I should do or not. After all, with my nephews, I've changed their diapers and wiped their backsides and even showered with them a time or ten, and I figure that's alright, because I'm a pseudoparent in those cases. But with this child that is not only a stranger, but the son of other strangers, who didn't even meet me before entrusting me with their offspring's wellbeing?

Anyway, I latched the fooking carseat, morality be damned, and as I drove them toward the museum, I wondered if I was also supposed to entertain them. If I was allowed to turn on the radio or not (I know, but people are weird around here, and I once heard the next door neighbor tell my nephew to turn off the television in my house because he wasn't allowed to watch "Spongebob" at his house), if I should have them call me by my first name, or be Mister something.

I figured I might as well engage with them, at least to pass the time, so I asked them about their siblings, their favorite superheroes, if they were warm enough back there, and if their mommys were looking for a little something on the side. And at one point, as we were passing the Petsmart on the parkway before the freeway, I asked the kids if they like going to the pet store.

To my shock (I nearly said 'horror'), both Tyler and Henry said they had never been to a pet store. I clarified. "Ever? Any pet store?" Neither one had done so, and neither family had a dog or a cat or a goldfish.*

This may not be a big deal, I realize, but I'm going to pretend that it is. To me, it's not even a cultural or personal thing, like hearing when Sam Raimi's ARMY OF DARKNESS remake came out a couple weeks ago that many of today's children had never seen the 1939 WIZARD OF OZ. It's like riding a bicycle or going to a park or having an ice cream cone, in my mind. A pet store is such a simple, everyday pleasure a child could enjoy (without their parents even buying anything), that it sort of boggled my mind.

Isn't it like living in Memphis and never hearing of Elvis, or living in San Diego but never seeing the ocean, or living in Milwaukee and never having tasted beer, or spending a lifetime in Colorado or Montana or Utah and never once going skiing, or living in Vegas and never skiing, or being a New Yorker and not having been mugged, or going to Alabama and not once being called the N-word? Stuff like that?

Since I moved here, I'd say I've gone to a pet store about three hundred times, and that particular pet store, say, forty or more. Hell, it's such a unconsciously-integral bit of Americana (in MY America, at least), that I incorporated that exact Petsmart in two stories I wrote in the last year, "Baby Talk" (which I'll be forcing people to listen to in the fall) and "The Ugly Table" (which I should have been trying to convince listeners to buy for almost a year now. I may even have mentioned it in my holiday zombie story.

Again, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with these kids' parents for never having taken them to a pet store . . . except I guess I am. My cousin Ryan friggin' hates animals (and used to torture them slowly as a youth in order to achieve erections), but I'd bet you any amount of money he's been in a pet store in the last four years.

Why the devil did I blog about this?

Oh yeah, because I don't want to edit or record audiobooks tonight.

Rish Outfield, Pet Store Advocate

*Shoot, it just occurred to me that when Tyler saw the goldfish they had swimming in the "stream" at the museum, he told me they were orange, not gold.

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