When I returned from my ten-minute break, there were more people in the mercantile than I’d seen in the yurt all morning.
The store manager was trying to give directions to a young couple looking for the nearby Boy Scout camp, but she didn’t really know the area. She looked at me for help, so I pulled out a map and showed them two routes that would get them to their destination. Their thank yous said, they left, and I remained behind the counter.
A tiny child holding a red box of peanut butter M&Ms stepped up to the counter and looked at me slyly.
I looked around the store. While there were adults browsing, it wasn’t clear what family the kid might belong to. There were certainly no adults in his immediate vicinity.
That will cost $2.50, I said—not unkindly—to the boy. Do you have any money?
The kid never said a word, just took the box of candy from the counter and headed for the door. When he had one foot on the deck and the other still in the mercantile, I called out to him—again, not unkindly—Hey! Please don’t take that outside without paying for it.
This got his family’s attention. An older woman (Mom? Grandma?) and a younger woman (Mom? Sister?) both started hollering at the kid from across the store where they were looking at t-shirts.
George! Get back in here!
George! Put that back!
George turned around, returned the box of M&Ms to its place among the other candy boxes, then went over to stand with the women.
Sorry about that! one of the women called across the store.
No problem, I said. I handled the situation.