Monday, September 16, 2013

Not Responsible

On Saturday afternoon I went to the playground (yes, that one) with Henry. I sat, again, with my back to the sun, no longer wistful at its setting now that September is upon us. I kept an eye on my little blonde rascal, prone as he is to escaping enclosed areas at the smallest sign of an open gate.

I was exhausted. My husband had been gone for all but two of the previous eight days, and it was starting to show.

Henry was over by the gate door with his doll stroller when a father entered with his daughter, who was maybe two-and-a-half. That sneaky little man inched his way toward the open door, and I started to walk over. 

I wasn't worried, however. Surely this father of a toddler was not going to let my son just exit the playground alone.

Surely he would at least look around to see if there was an adult in sight.


But no. No. There he was, a grown man -- a father no less -- holding the door open for my one-year-old.

I started jogging over, calling "No, wait! Don't let him out!" as Henry slipped out the door.

"You let him out!" I said incredulously to the man as I reached him.

He looked right in my face and said, "Excuse me. I'm not responsible for your kid."

Not: 'Oh, sorry! I didn't realize.'

"You held the door for him," I responded as I ran off to grab Henry, who was already 25 yards away and toddling happily straight for a mud puddle.


I like the feel of Brooklyn, which is a lot more neighborhood-y than Manhattan for the most part. I see the same people on the streets and in the playground.

I have written about being part of the "asshole brigade" barging its way in to a slowly gentrifying community. The truth is I may be snarky and direct, but I'm not an asshole. I always pick up after my dog on the street (once with my bare hands); I stop to help change a bike tire; I help women with strollers onto the bus; I say hello to little kids when they wave at me in the lumbering elevator of our building (something not everyone does for Henry, consumed as they are with their headphones and iPhone). I may not be "nice" in the conventional, gentile sense of the word, but I'm not an asshole.

I cried behind my sunglasses as I walked home with Henry that evening. Yes, my nerves were frayed, and I was tired. But mostly I was just sad -- and a little angry -- that I didn't live in the community I thought I did, one where an adult might think twice about holding the playground door open for a one-year-old to exit.

On such days, I feel so lonely in my big, bustling city.