Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

I swear my name is Sherry. It's on my birth certificate, my driver's license, and all those threatening letters I get when my bill payments are overdue.

But these days, I could just as easily answer to Gladys. Gladys Kravitz, that is. (If this means squat to you, then you were not a child of the sixties or seventies, and you must run immediately to your TV to watch reruns of "Bewitched" on cable.)

I am not a nosy individual. Peering through windows or eavesdropping on conversations isn't my M.O. But somewhere along the way toward becoming a responsible middle-aged adult, I have grown, let's just say, a bit preoccupied with the wayward behavior of others. Especially very stupid children. And the very stupid parents of very stupid children.

So, am I in a league of my own? Even Gladys Kravitz would have been justified to interfere with the things I've been witnessing. Yet so much of the world seems oblivious.

Like where were the other responsible adults at the regatta this spring, when I told that young boy to climb down from his riverside perch high in the tree, as the slender tree trunk buckled under his weight and swayed dangerously, threatening his crash 20 feet to the ground?

"My parents don't care if I'm up here," he told me defiantly.

"Well, even if they don't, I do," I told him.

Such a bitch. I know. The thought was reflected in his glowering eyes as he eventually climbed down. And no worried parents rushed to his side.

And where were the other concerned adults just days later, when I walked along a park trail backing up to a yard where five or six boys bounced together upon a trampoline? Two of them began snapping each other with towels, and they jumped and dodged each other, falling dangerously close to the edge. I tried not to watch, but I couldn't stay quiet. (Yes, staying quiet is a quality I've never mastered.)

"Hey, guys, please don't do that. Someone's going to get hurt. I know a kid who broke his neck fooling around on a trampoline." (True story: A neighbor boy did so, the day after high school graduation. Fortunately, he wasn't permanently paralyzed. Unfortunately, his college football scholarship didn't survive the fall.)

And stupidity can't always be blamed on children. I've made more than my share of nonverbal suggestions to stupid parents with unbelted kids in their cars, attempting to point with helpful hand gestures toward my own seatbelt. Generally, they've responded with not-so-helpful hand gestures of their own.

Once, an angry woman even stopped her car and confronted me.

"I'm sorry," I said, "but you really should have your child in a car seat." (He was three, tops.) "Or maybe a seatbelt at least," I conceded with hesitation, my eyes darting toward her hands, fearing that they held a gun.

"Don't tell me what to do with my f-ing kid," she said, as a neanderthal appeared by her side.

So! OK. Time to shut up, perhaps? Keep my concerns to myself, and leave the child's bloodshed on his own mother's conscience?

Perhaps it's true that no good deed goes unpunished.

I'm not likely to ever turn my head though. I may have been a stupid kid once myself (fodder for another blog), but as an adult, I like to think of myself as the Sentinel of Sanity.

Not likely, since my newly earned label, at least by that same group of boys on the trampoline, whom I passed on my most recent walk along the park trail, is "That Stupid Lady."

They've probably never heard of Gladys Kravitz or of Samantha Stevens. But if I could only twitch my nose and bewitch them, I'd make them all as smart as me.

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