I know you. I know you were running late today. I know this because I was running late today. You work at the hospital, too. We must have the same shifts.
Your typically well-groomed child didn’t have his uniform shirt tucked in, and he wasn’t wearing his usual Harry Potter lanyard for his mask. He probably misplaced it because he didn’t hang it on the designated mask hook when he got home from school yesterday, right? I’m sure you’ve already had that chat with him about being responsible for his things and that you’ve already cringed at the possibility of his mask falling on the floor of the school bathroom. But you had to roll the dice on that one today because you’re behind schedule. You’re running late, but damn if you’re not gonna get that iced coffee. I’m right, huh? Ask me how I know.
And I know that it’s killing you that the guy in front of us is taking his sweet time with his order because don’t you know it’s his first time ever in a Starbucks and he wants to order something he saw on a “secret menu” in some viral social media post. For a second, you debated whether you could handle a 12-hour shift without coffee. And we know that you can, but maybe if you can order in the next 90 seconds and if you don’t get stuck on the wrong side of the train tracks, you still have a shot to toss your kid out and get on your unit on time with that iced coffee. Yep, I get it.
And I know that you didn’t have a chance to get breakfast going this morning, which is why you decided that a cake pop would be adequate for your son. I get that, too. Your hands were unusually full carrying an extra iced coffee (for a friend or for you to have aside for later?), an apple juice, and a cake pop. Your son wanted to hold your keys and a cool rock that he found in the parking lot. Fine, take the rock, but let’s hustle please. I know how this goes.
I pulled forward. He dropped his rock, but you didn’t see him. I did though. He followed his rock right into the path of my Tahoe. I knew it was coming, which is why my foot was already on the brake. I had a solid 3 feet before I was going to hit your kid with my car, but to you it felt like mere centimeters. You couldn’t even look at me because you knew you lucked out. I understand.
I don’t think you’re negligent. I’m sorry you spilled your coffee. I don’t think you’re awful for yanking your kid’s arm so hard that it almost became dislocated at the elbow (I’ve done this on the Target escalator and actually did dislocate my son’s arm). It’s okay! I saw you. I was looking out for you. I know y’all have talked a jillion times about parking lot safety. I know that 99% of the time, he does great walking alongside you and doesn’t require handholding. I know you had your hands full. I know he’s old enough to know better. I know you fussed him up and down in the car and that you may have had to bite your lip to keep from smacking the crap out of him because HOW. MANY. TIMES. HAVE. WE. TALKED. ABOUT. THIS? I know you thanked God that I saw you first but also cursed yourself for being a distracted hot mess this morning. Sister, I know that look. I have been there. Honestly, that’s my baseline. I know your nerves are shot and that this set the tone for your whole day.
When you went to toss him out the carline, I’m sure you did the whole I’m so sorry for snapping at you, but you really scared me speech. Right? And then you drove to work teary-eyed because your kid almost got run over and then you spilled that coffee and then you screamed at him. You felt extra guilty because you debated what’s scarier: that he jumped in front of my car or that you were set to work a 12-hour shift sans caffeine. I have been there. Listen to me. It was okay. It is okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, and it will still be okay. I’m looking out for you.