The keys were in the ignition, but I couldn’t quite muscle up the strength to fire the engine. Instead, I sat silent. Anger and disappointment ran down my face after I’d just Mike Tysoned my steering wheel. I even hit the horn a few times and got a few looks, but I didn’t care. Just moments ago, I went “Special Needs-Dad-crazy” on this kid who couldn’t have been more than 16 years old.
We were in line. The kid was in front of me with a sandwich and Monster energy drink. The lady behind the register appeared to be ready for her shift to end as her head barely came up to say hello. An older gentlemen was in front of us patiently waiting on the socially awkward employee at the end of check-out.
The kid directly in front of me was a tall, 6 ft. something high school kid, who immediately came across spoiled with several god-given talents. The bagger dropped a yogurt on the ground and was trying to clean it up. Immediately I could tell he had a meticulous approach to bagging groceries and this was out of character for him. His right hand lay limp, fingers pointed straight to the ground, with his arm most comfortable at his side. He had an obvious twitch and a wonderful smile.
The kid in front of me turned towards me with a smirk on his face whispered, but loud enough for me to hear, “Can you believe they allow these tards to work directly with customers? No wonder every store is adding more and more self-checkout lines.” He turned back towards the lady at the register with a short chuckle, proud of what he’d just come up with.
Instantly, I was fuming. I imagined me punching this asshole in the face, knocking him to the ground and forcing him to lick spilled yogurt from the floor while the methodical bagger looked on. I imagined me beating some sense into his brain, better yet, his soul. Instead, I didn’t say anything. I watched him grab his sandwich and drink and walk out the door. I stood trying to fathom what had just happened. Meanwhile, the lady behind the register asked for my club card and if I wanted to pay with credit or debit. To be honest, it was all sort of a blur. I had so many things to say to that kid. I took my receipt and start running for the door.
I caught up to him in the parking lot. “Hey! Come here for a sec,” I yelled out. I had no idea what I was about to say, but I know I had to say something. I reached for my phone and pulled up the latest Picture I had of my son, Jack.
“You see that!?” I said.
His eyes grew big. He didn’t know what to think or say. “Yea, uh…. Yea,” he said.
“That’s my boy!” I shouted.
I lost it. Holding my phone in front of his face, I went on- “He’s 8 years old and has Down syndrome. He doesn’t talk yet. He chews on his shirt regularly and still wears a pull-up. He’s different and awkward…and full-on weird at times, but it doesn’t matter. He’s better than us because he doesn’t think like you and me. Not just ’cause he’s my son, but because he represents what we all want to be- actually…..genuinely nice….”
I paused to catch my breath…. “Hell, after what you just said in there, he’d still probably hug you.”
Tears began to build and I was shaking. “Just do me a favor, the next time you want to call someone a retard think about this photo…..or that nice guy in there who just accidentally spilt yogurt.”