by Chrysa Smith


It sounds good. Makes us feel good–like decent, caring people, even. But tell me, what happens when tolerance crosses the line? When we’re put on the spot, because the actions of others cross the boundaries of being caring, decent people?

Well, if you’re over 80—or maybe over 40, you just say it!

Case in point: I was at yet another ‘fair.’ For some reason, although I keep telling myself that I’ll never do another sales gig by setting up a table and hauling all my books with me, just to sell a couple, I once again do it. Call me crazy, but all one has to do is stroke me by telling me they’re only inviting a few select authors and I figure; eh, give it one more try. Never works. Never will. But give it one more try.

So Friday night I packed up the car and headed on over to the town-wide Victorian Christmas festival that took over the evening’s activities. I looked around, took a deep breath and asked myself what on earth I was doing there. But, glass half full, I put on a smile and kept the faith—until it happened.

Books on display, most folks come over, pick up a copy, thumb through it and either buy or put the book back. Basic stuff. But Friday night I had a set of brothers. Around 9/10 years old, they each, systematically picked up books and began to read. Not a problem—except that they each held a half-eaten, sticky candy cane in one hand. So immediately, my side-kick, 89 year old mother, warned them to watch the sticky candy. I myself, kept a watchful eye, without commenting. As they flipped the pages, they wiggled and leaned and flipped some more, waving that candy all around.–not paying a bit of attention to the  ‘be careful with that candy’ commentary. After a good 15 minutes of this, my mother clearly told them: ‘That’s enough. Put the books away. You’ve read enough!’ OMG! I couldn’t believe she said it—it was so blunt, so direct, but it was the right thing to do.

I nervously sat there, not knowing how to quite handle the possibility of ditching two perfectly good books, that might now, be perfectly sticky. When their mother finally showed up, she stood by, looking around, letting them ‘entertain’ themselves without a word. Then my mother piped up and told her “They’re getting the books all sticky with their candy.” They were, but the defensive mother said one of them didn’t even have candy because he dropped it. OMG! He did drop it—-after about 10 minutes of sticking and reading. And to top it off? Nobody had any intentions of making a purchase.

After we left, I realized my mother was of course, correct. Trying to be the ‘nice girl’ only leaves you in a sticky situation (chuckle). I should have told them to put the books down and return once they had washed their hands. Or I should have told the mom that I was a vendor, hoping to sell my goods–not the entertainment for the evening. But the boys, nor their mom, had the manners to already know that. And that is still always surprising to me. I expect everyone to be well-mannered; do the right thing.

I thought once I crossed 40, I became more outspoken. Apparently not enough. Perhaps, like my mother, it’ll take a few more decades until I gain that chutzpah. Until then, I’ll keep thinking of ‘polite’ ways to get my message across. And for those who don’t do polite? I’ll call on good, ‘ol mom.