Anywhere you go with four children, you realize that you aren’t the norm in our present day society. Most people look at us like we’re crazy, which is a little bit true. It takes a bit of a crazy mentality to go for four. And it helps to be a little crazy because things just aren’t as controllable as you may like them to be.
So we walked into Subway. It does no good to have all six of us stand in line, so I took Audrey and Austen and got in line after getting a quick breakdown from Robyn of just what she wanetd on her spicy Italian sub. She went to sit at an open booth with the two youngest kids, and as I stood in line a woman in her mid-fifties entered and got in line behind us. She looked like an old co-worker from my Disney days, and had a pleasant enough expression on her face.
Autumn decided she had to use the bathroom right then–and the only way to get to them was through the locked door. The key was at the counter, so I asked Audrey and Austen to stay right there in line–I would be right back after I got the key to the bathrooms. They followed me to the cash register, where the clerk helpfully gave us the key. I walked back to where I had been in line, handed the key off to Robyn and said, “Excuse me,” to the woman who had been behind me.
“What for?” she asked.
“I”m just trying to get back in line,” I said. “Thanks!”
“Were you in line?” she asked.
I think my mouth dropped open–my chin had to have fallen to the floor. “What?”
“Were you in line?” she repeated.
I looked at her and could see she wasn’t joking. Her mouth was set and her eyes were not friendly. “Yes–I was right in front of you. I just had to go over to the counter to get the key for the restroom so my wife could take my youngest to the bathroom.” I was trying to explain it in as nicely a way as possible. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t seen me. My family–all six of us–aren’t exactly the types of people who blend quietly into the background.
“You didn’t save your place in line.”
I have never ever, in my entire life, been flummoxed before. I’d always wanted to be in a situation where I could use that word correctly. And here it was, presented to me by a grumpy woman in line at Subway. I was flummoxed. “Seriously? I tried to leave my kids in line here, but they followed me…”
“They should have stayed in line.”
“They’re kids. Of course they followed me…” I was helpless. I couldn’t argue with whatever powers had convinced her that somehow I was trying to thwart her ability to get her $5 foot long. I was waiting for her to yell, “No placebacks!” Had I just travelled through a hole in the space-time continuum and ended up back at the drinking fountain in 3rd grade? I literally shoook my head. “I was standing here,” I said weakly.
“You were standing here?” she asked again.
I took a deep breath, sighed, and said, “Obviously it is important to you that you eat before these small children. So, please, go ahead of me. Please.” The line had grown considerably since she had made me doubt my sanity. “I’ll go to the back of the line, since it’s that important to you.”
I went and sat down where August still sat, blithely waiting for one of his parents to return. The nice old lady in the booth behind us smiled and said, “You know, if you need to stand in line, I can watch your baby. I’m a state-certified and licensed day care provider. And I have six children and four grandchildren.”
I smiled back at her. “No, thank you. It’s okay. I’ll just wait for my wife.” I glanced over at the line. “I just don’t have the energy to deal with crabby people.”
“Nobody does,” she said. And at that moment, the crabby lady leaned as far out of the line as she could–I swear she was doing the splits so she wouldn’t lose her place to the people behind her. “Sir,” said crabby, “go ahead and get in line. I see you have a baby and small children…”
I wanted to turn around and yell, “I had small children with me in line! Are you serious?” Instead, I just turned and said, “No, it’s okay. I’ll just wait for my wife.”
When Robyn came out of the bathroom with Autumn, I returned the key and got back in line with Audrey and Austen. I watched as crabby lady ordered her sandwiches, tried to smile at her as she walked out the door–she looked everywhere she could without making eye contact with me again–and placed our order. By the time we were done, she had received her order a total of 3 minutes ahead of me.
The lesson here? Remember that the rule of placebacks is still in effect. Remember that next time you’re in line.