You’ve just been deputized


By Lisa Sugarman

People often ask me how I come up with something different to write about every week without being redundant. And my answer is almost always the same. Somehow, even when I’m completely void of ideas, something always seems to present itself to me in a way that I know, unmistakably, that it’s what I’m supposed to write about.

Take this week, for example.

I’m in this diner in central Vermont, killing time before I pick up my daughter from cross country running camp (yes, she actually goes to a camp for running), when it dawns on me that my column deadline is creeping up and I’m idealess.

I’m sitting alone at my table, dredging my brain for ideas and on the verge of pulling out my notebook where I keep my super-secret list of possible columns, when I get a clear and obvious sign from the Powers That Be, showing me exactly what I should be writing about. And the sign was pointing and flashing at the woman sitting directly across from me.

She was at a table with six young kids, raising her voice and snapping pretty consistently at each of them. Why, I had no idea. Now I couldn’t tell if these were her kids or if she was maybe just their camp counselor getting them lunch. Either way it didn’t matter because she was clearly responsible for them in one way or another. And it was very obvious to me, and the few other people sitting nearby, that this chick was losing her temper fast and things were about to get ugly.

The bizarre thing was, I had no idea why she was getting annoyed. The kids, who ranged in age from an infant in a bucket carrier to around twelve, were being absolutely model little citizens. There was no horsing around, everyone was quiet and well behaved, and had I not been absentmindedly staring in their direction, I would never have even realized there were a bunch of kids nearby.

But as soon as I heard the woman’s sharp and edgy voice, I immediately started fake typing and fully engaged myself in what was going on at her table. And ok, although I was getting a little concerned about the tone of this woman’s voice, I was also being ever so slightly nosey. It was pretty clear, though, that someone was about to get smacked.

See, historically speaking, I happen to have an extremely low tolerance for idiots, especially idiots who pick on little kids. But as Dave so often reminds me, there are a lot of crazies out there who wouldn’t hesitate to skin me alive and go Charlie Manson on me for butting into their business. So I’ve learned to react to the idiots of the world by keeping a healthy distance and engaging only when absolutely necessary.

In this case, I just deputized myself with a mission of watching her without her knowing she was being watched. Not that I could do all that much, but at the very least I wanted to make sure no one got backhanded in the face. At least not on my watch.

I surveilled as she stood up and started ranting about how she’d never take any of them into a public place like this EVER again. I saw her grab, one by one, all the little kiddie-size milkshakes out of everyone’s hands and jam them into the trash can. I listened as she muttered to all of them how terrible they were being. And maybe they were being ornery without me seeing, but they’re kids.

And then she saw me.

She caught me watching her. And that’s when she froze. Yeah, that’s right, biatch, I see what you’re doing, so back off! Our eyes locked and I stared her down like someone does when they’re training a dog and they need to make the dog look away first to prove who’s in charge. Needless to say, she looked away first. Then she shooed all the kids straight out the door, telling me to mind my business under her breath as she passed my table.

I never took my eyes off her, though, until she drove out of the parking lot and out of sight.

The moral here is two-fold. First, having or caring for kids is a privilege, not a right. But unfortunately, not everyone realizes that. And second, there are a-holes out there who think nothing of intimidating and bullying little kids, at least until someone calls them out on it or stares them down.

And while we all can’t be guardians of the world twenty-four hours a day, we can do our best to keep our eyes and ears open and help where we can. Because sometimes a little Dog Whisperer stare is all it takes. So consider yourself deputized.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.


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