“Stay here honey, I’ll be right back,” the father said to his daughter. They were standing fifty feet from a set of bathrooms located at the foot of the California Screaming roller coaster.
The very same roller coaster that my family was in line to ride for the second time that day.
Once had been enough for me. Several years earlier I had eagerly jumped aboard, only to be rocketed along at such a force that I was lifted out of the seat for the entire ride while tears streamed out of my eyes.
And no, I wasn’t crying. The force of the ride was intense. So much so that it literally squeezed tears out of my eyes like Minute Maid squeezes juice from an orange.
Can you blame me for opting out of the ride to sit on one of the cozy benches located at the foot of that monstrous roller coaster?
Anyway, the man handed the child his smart phone and proceeded on his mission to visit the bathroom. The girl, who was about eight, found a seat on an empty bench near me and immediately became immersed in a game.
I’m not really a buttinsky, but I do worry about children left alone in public places. So I decided to quietly keep an eye on the girl until her father returned.
Which is why I noticed when a woman about twenty feet away got up and moved in my direction. She turned back to where she had been sitting and shrugged a question. A heavyset man on the bench motioned, she looked at the bench with the little girl and immediately went to sit an inch from the girl. The girl was so caught up in her game that she seemed not to notice.
But I noticed.
My brain worked frantically as I thought through different scenarios, the best of which being that the woman and the little girl knew each other.
Which wasn’t likely. The little girl continued to play her game and ignore the woman sitting practically on top of her.
So I did the most logical thing I could think of. I turned and openly watched as the heavyset man moved over to the bench and looked down at the little girl. Then he looked up and his eyes locked with mine. I kept my gaze steady and unflinching. An easy thing for a former librarian to do.
He looked away from me, ordered the girl off the bench, and took a seat. The girl’s father returned a minute later and they went about their business, happy to return to a day of fun.
But I kept watching the couple on the bench. They sat there for about five minutes, with the woman worriedly looking in my direction every few seconds.
Of course the answer is, “When it’s a ‘just in case’ picture.” As in, ‘just in case’ the couple was or is up to no good.
I know the couple didn’t do anything except run the little girl off the bench. It was rude, but nothing to write home about.
But what would have happened if no one had been watching? Would the outcome have been the same?
You may notice that I’ve blurred the woman’s face and tattoo.
I did this because I don’t believe in plastering a person’s image all over the Internet. Her features are blurred enough so that she looks like thousands of other women.
But even with the blurring it’s easy to see that she’s looking my way and she’s worried.
Which is why I’m keeping the original of this ‘selfie’ in a safe place.
Just in case.