marginfades

The joy of movement. Words. Food & memory.

The Fairy and The Businessman

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Another Halloween’s come and gone, and I still clearly remember last year’s eager trick-or-treater angling for another fistful of candy.

“Do you mind if I take another?” she asked with conviction.

Hers was a simple yet clever costume: a pair of fairy wings much too large for her frame, and matching eye shadow, plus a smear of you’re-far-too-young-for-that-color lipstick.  She was the older of the trick-or-treating duo – and as I looked over her diminutive companion, I realized they looked far too much alike to be anything other than sisters.

Her hand was already reaching for candy bowl, after rooting through with swift, practiced thoroughness to retrieve two handfuls of the treats that she preferred – the first for little sister, the second for her.  I was indignant yet amused: this winged sprite, no more than 8 or 9 at best, knew exactly what she wanted.  She treated herself to as much as she could scoop up, single-handedly.  It was no more than others had taken, and no less than I expected.

She smiled with her lips and watched carefully with her eyes – and came in for another handful during my moment of hesitation.  Another two, actually: another one for her younger sister, and then for herself.  All the while a smile, and perfunctory expressions of thanks.

I stood there staring, wondering whether I was indignant at her presumption, or in awe of her deft negotiation.  Both, I decided.

A neighbor who witnessed the entire encounter remarked that “those people” came into our neighborhoods because “they” couldn’t get candy in their own neighborhood.  My retort was that at least she dressed up and asked politely for what she wanted, and got it.   There were costume-less teenagers from our neighborhood who simply held out trash bags, zombie-like, with an expectation of candy.  I half-wished I had turned away: shouldn’t I get the treat of seeing a costume, no matter how haphazard or simple?

And I still had enough candy for the evening – just  far less than I expected.  If everything my neighbor perceived about this little girl were true, then she was doing her best for first her sibling then herself with the best tools and circumstances she had – and doing so with a certain panache.  In the end, I reflected that the only problem I had with the situation was her precocious panache.  I didn’t expect such social dexterity in a child so young.

If she wields it well, she’ll go far.

***

A month ago, I found myself in a crowded security line, waiting to take a plane home.  Ahead of me was a woman: short, neatly attired, with no sense of glamor.  She looked careworn, yet stood ramrod straight.  Behind me was a businessman: at least 6 foot in his height, suited, cool demeanor.

We each emptied our belongings into bins and onto the conveyer, and the woman ahead of me and I moved back a few steps to take our turn through the detectors.  The businessman moved straight to the detector, and went through, after a brief backward glance at the line.  It seemed in that moment he realized that he’d jumped a line that he was unaware of: a quirk of his eyebrow acknowledged us, as if in apology.

But he went through.  And no one stopped him – not the woman in front of me, and not I.  It only struck me after he went through that perhaps I could have done the same.  And yet, my politeness and social consciousness kicks in.

***

For context, understand that each of these situations lasted at most 30 seconds.  They’re mere moments in time, hardly enough for the average person to react and redirect the course of situation, especially where strangers one will never encounter again are involved in interaction.

What I will remember about the airport a year from now is that the businessman went through anyway, with a spur-of-the-moment, implied apology.  What I will remember about the young trick-or-treater is her boldness.   Each presumed, with a certain politeness and poise.

Social conditioning and thought-leaders suggest that I will remember the trick-or-treater long after I forget the businessman because of her gender, her race, her age.  He’ll be admired for doing as he should; she’ll be lucky if she’s not judged as grasping and aggressive.

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Written by marginfades

November 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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5 Responses

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  1. Awesome pumpkin photo! I think I’d remember the businessman just as well. He’s old enough to know better. Though it’s always possible he did make an honest mistake. But I doubt it was that. He was originally behind you after all. Reading this reminds me of a time a woman jumped a long line to use a bathroom. We were on a cross country bus, so there weren’t many chances to answer nature’s call. Some of the people in the line-up made comments when she came out. She looked away and dashed off. At the time, I was really unimpressed with her too. but who knows, maybe she had an emergency and if she hadn’t cut it, the results would have been more embarrassing for her. I try to give people the benefit of doubt. With that little girl in the fairy costume, I imagine she was just being herself–a little girl. Maybe “they” didn’t often get to eat candy because of their family’s financial situation…these thoughts would have been playing through my mind, along with what you say above. I’d wonder if she was desperate or annoying. Hope she does use it right and go far. OK, I’ll stop now. 😀

    Chris

    June 25, 2013 at 6:46 am

  2. I love how from what you describe as “mere moments in time”, you derive so much story, so much imagery. We do, after all, live for those moments in time too. Beautiful, moving, and such a great come-back!

    Roxanne

    November 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm

  3. What matters, too, is not just their charisma but also that you are who you are or that you weren’t in the wrong mood at the time. And maybe that you wield honey for fly-trapping and you know these things will make luscious blog posts.

    Kim Samsin (@kimsamsin)

    November 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm


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