Tag Archives: kids in the Mercantile

Running

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One of the things I hated about working in the Mercantile was dealing with unsupervised children. Even parents who were physically in the store sometimes paid no attention to their kids and simply let them run amuck. In these cases, it became my job to make sure the kids didn’t hurt themselves or the store’s merchandise. I spent a lot of time saying things like Be careful, sweetheart! or Oh! That’s breakable! while parents were paying attention to something other than their children.

One afternoon a family came into the store. The mother and father seemed to be in their early 30s. The little girls was a toddler, probably under two years old, and the boy was a little older, maybe six or seven. The dad wanted to wander around unencumbered, but the mom wasn’t having it.

Look, she told the fellow, I can’t handle both of them. You’ve got to take one.

The dad said he’d take the boy, but the mom said the boy would be easier for her to deal with and she wanted to take him. The dad seemed exasperated but agreed. I felt sorry for the little girl. It seemed both parents were rejecting her because she was too difficult. I hoped she was too little to understand what was happening.

Instead of holding the kid’s hand and leading her around the store while explaining that there would be no touching, the dad picked her up. She didn’t want to be carried and began venting her frustration by screaming. The mom and the boy walked away to browse in the store. The dad carried the freaking toddler outside.

At some point I lost track of the family. I don’t think the mom bought anything, and I didn’t notice when she and the boy left the store.

A green yurt sits in the forest. A wooden ramp leads to a wooden deck in front of the yurt.
The kids were running up and down the ramp visible on the right side of this photo.

The next time the family came to my attention, it was because the kids were running up and down the wooden ramp that went from the parking area to the Mercantile’s porch. The kids were not trotting or jogging or sauntering. They were full-on running, as if they were competing in the Kiddie Olympics. The boy was faster because he was bigger, but the tiny girl was doing her best to keep up. She was also squealing with excitement.

The children didn’t run up the ramp just once. They ran up the ramp, down the ramp, up the ramp, down the ramp. They kept running, just like the Energizer Bunny.

At the bottom of the ramp was a concrete parking pad for a vehicle carrying a passenger with a disabled access pass. I immediately imagined one of those little kids tripping, falling, and cracking a head on the concrete. Why weren’t the parents of the children as concerned about the prospect of a cracked skull as I was?

When I looked out the door, I couldn’t see either parent, and I thought the adults had wandered off and left their young athletes on our doorstep.

I bustled outside saying, Please! No running! Oh, no running please! Someone could get hurt! I was hoping to sound like a concerned elderly aunt, but I think I probably came across more like a deranged Mary Poppins.

The children’s mother was nowhere in sight. I think she’d gone to the restroom. I didn’t think I’d see the dad either, but there he was standing at the corner where the long ramp turned onto the deck in front of the store. He was messing around on his phone, but surely he knew his kids–including his tiny daughter who’d obviously learned to walk only recently–were running like maniacs. As far as I could tell, he’d done absolutely nothing to stop them.

No running please! I said again to the children, and this time the dad echoed halfheartedly, Yeah, no running.

The mom walked up about then, and I went back into the Mercantile. When the family left our porch, I whispered fiercely to the other clerk, The dad was right there! He knew they were running! He probably would have sued us if one of the kids got hurt!

I don’t understand people. There was a whole forest those kids could have run in. Whey let kids run up and down a wooden ramp with concrete at the bottom when they could have been running in the dirt?

Hatchets

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The Mercantile where I worked for two seasons sold hatchets. The Mercantile was located in a campground in the middle of a national forest, so the buyer for the store probably thought people would buy the hatchets to use in chopping firewood. We sold a few, not many. Most campers bought firewood from the camp host; this wood was already cut and split to fit in a

Photo of a Pile of Firewood

fire ring. The campers who collected wood for their campfires tended to be prepared with hatchets they’d brought from home.

Usually hatchets sat in a wooden crate in the camping section of the Mercantile and received no attention. However, on one Saturday the hatchets were noticed by boys too young to have them.

The first two boys came in during the morning. They were not accompanied by an adult, which always made me groan. The boys couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, and I wondered if their parents let then go by themselves into Wal-Mart or the mall. I’m not sure why some parents thought because our store was in a campground, it was ok to let their kids wander in alone.

I didn’t bother the boys, but I kept an eye on them. They were horsing around a the back of the store, but not being destructive or too loud. I had no qualms about sending unruly children on their way, but I didn’t feel I had the right to kick out people who weren’t misbehaving.

Then one of the boys found the hatchets.

Ooohhh! Look at this! the one called to his friend. The second boy was over in a flash.

Most of the hatchets had a plastic protector over the blade, but some of the

Black Axe on Wood

protectors had been lost in the shuffle of being unpacked and repacked and unpacked again over the course of the two seasons the Mercantile had been open. I wasn’t sure how sharp the edges of the blades actually were, but I didn’t want to find out by way of some kid’s bloody finger.

You can’t buy one of those without an adult present, I called out to the boys.

This wasn’t exactly a lie. Perhaps no county, state, or federal law required the boys to have an adult present in order to buy a hatchet, but I certainly wasn’t going to let a little kid buy one without a responsible adult there to approve the purchase. Also, kids that young seldom had twenty bucks in their pockets, so I counted on the mention of buying to remind them that they couldn’t afford the tool.

The boys seemed to have forgotten I was there and looked surprised and a bit embarrassed when I spoke. Once they realized I wasn’t going to let them play with a hatchet before they bought it, and I wasn’t going to let them buy one without an adult to ok the purchase, they left the store. I was relieved no one had been hurt and I no longer had to babysit.

The boy who came in later and expressed interest in the hatchets was older–probably closer to 11–but still too young (in my opinion) to have unsupervised access to a tool with the potential to do so much damage.

This older kid was a charmer in a real Eddie Haskell sort of way. He was very polite and smiled with all his teeth at me, but he seemed totally insincere. I suspect he would have kissed my hand and told me I was beautiful if he thought it would have gotten him what he wanted.

He asked me if we sold knives. I directed him to the knives in the glass display case. He was hoping for something bigger, maybe something that had the name of the place where we were printed or engraved on it. I assured him we had only the small, plain ones.

He walked around the store looking at the merchandise, all the while smiling and chatting me up. Then he saw the hatchets. He picked one up and admired it, so I told him what I’d told the younger boys: You can’t buy one of those without an adult present.

He sighed and returned the hatchet to the wooden crate with the others. He walked over near where I stood and said with a dreamy look in his eyes, I just love knives!

He said it the way another kid might say, I just love puppies or I just love baseball or I just love ice cream. I was totally creeped out by the kid.

You have to have an adult present to buy a knife too, I told him while making my too bad face. Realizing I wasn’t going to let him play with or buy a hatchet or knife without adult supervision, the kid walked out of the Mercantile. I was glad I didn’t have to be alone with him anymore.

After that, no one noticed the hatchets again for weeks. I always wondered what was going on when a previously unpopular item suddenly got a lot of attention. Had the stars aligned in just the right way to promote hatchet interest? Were those kids on a field trip with a Junior Hatchet Lovers of America group?

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-a-pile-of-firewood-1405720/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/action-axe-blur-chop-213942/.