Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Scene From a Grocery

“Can you help me out, Mister?”

I glance over at the boy sitting in a chair behind the register as I pass and quickly move my eyes forward again. “Sorry kid, you’re on your own.”

As I move past the sodes, chips, and pasts my eyes fix on the yoghuts.

“Hear that son? You’ve got to do this for yourself.”

I pick a raspberry and Greek style swirl (with no added sugar) from a local dairy despite the higher price. As I pass rice and sauces my fingers fumble through my pockets for correct change. At the register, sitting boy’s brother who can’t be more than twelve takes the tub, scans it and asks for the the three dollars. I hand over the coins and finally raise my eyes again to the boy in the chair.

He is maybe ten, fairly slender, dressed in a tee shirt and shorts with appropriately short hair. There is nothing particularly remarkable jumping out except for the scissors in his left hand. And the plastic brown band around his chest. And arms. And wrists. And ankles.

Wait… This boy is being held hostage. My brain recalibrates to assess the situation. The boy is amused. Good sign. He has scissors and the man behind him has allowed this. Also a good sign. The boy pulls against his restraints but they don’t give much. I test the waters.

“If you’re going to be an action hero, you’ve got to be able to get out on your own.”

His father adds on, “Think of this as practice for being a cop. If you’re a cop, you’re going to have to get out of a situation like this at some point.” Apparently the police here deal with some Jack Bauer-type stuff. “And don’t cut yourself.”

“Yeah,” I respond. “You don’t want to have to explain that when you drive him in to the hospital.”

“Oh I can’t close the shop. We’d have to put him in a cart and his brother would have to push him there.” He grins wryly and adds to his son, “Oh, also don’t cut your shirt. Mom’ll get upset.”

I ask to take a picture and get permission. By now the child has gotten one arm free and cut the leg strap. He poses, looking startled and terrified for the click and goes right back to being engrossed in his efforts. We al banter a bit more before I head on my way.

On the street I start to chuckle. Another fifty meters and I’m doubled over laughing. The ridiculousness of the situation washes over me in waves. Every parent wants to connect with their child, to educate them, to feel close to them, to entertain them. There’s no right way to do that, no formula or road map to it. Trial by ordeal seems like as good a method as any.

One comment on “Scene From a Grocery

  1. Krissy
    January 21, 2012

    Wow, that’s a pretty ace story Justin! Toooootally not where I was expecting that story to head.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on January 20, 2012 by in Australia, Tasmania (Hobart).

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 700 other followers


%d bloggers like this: