“The Stare” Still Works, There is Hope!

To celebrate this beautiful spring day (OK, let’s not get too carried away, it is probably 45 degrees, overcast, slightly windy … BUT it isn’t snowing), I decided a nice long walk with Bella was in order. And it was a beautiful walk, with plenty of Wisconsin people out and about, just happy to be anywhere that doesn’t have walls and a ceiling. As we neared the end of our walk, we came off the footpath, crossed the bridge, and headed into the bustling downtown of Delafield (OK, not that bustling, but you know … there was action). As we walked up main street, I glanced to the left, and up a side street that led to the back of Tom’s Auto Body. Over the winter months, our lovely young children also suffer from cabin fever, and as this day provided some opportunity, a small tribe of the local natives had assembled to induce some mayhem. Their underdeveloped adolescent brains decided that it seemed like a good idea to turn one of the dumpsters into their personal jungle gym.

Our walking momentum had carried us past the brief vantage point of the scene, but my brain registered enough in those couple of seconds, that I decided the activities were really headed nowhere good. Fighting my first impulse to simply head to the coffee shop for a quad shot latte, and let somebody else worry about it, I succumbed to the pangs of social responsibility, the greater good, and the fact that I had just chatted to Tom the owner of the body shop last Saturday, and I really couldn’t live with a couple of broken windows and an overturned dumpster on my conscience. It is times like these when I think of my Grandpa Dominic, and him encouraging me as an impressionable 13-year-old, simply saying, “Pal, always do the right thing. Capish? Now, let’s go over to Mac’s and I’ll buy you a nut bar?” Do the right thing, and have some ice cream … it was, and still is, sage advice. Bella and I reversed course and stopped so that we could observe the shenanigans from across the street. We were about half a block away. She sat, and I simply stared at the scene. In my mind’s eye, I could clearly picture Dominic doing the same thing to us when we were kids … standing, staring, half a cigar clenched between his teeth … he never had to say a word.

The little darlings were climbing in and out, and all about the dumpster. They were slamming the top, trying to spin it around, kicking it, banging it with rocks, sticks, their hands, and anything else they could find. Like sharks in a feeding frenzy, they were becoming more wild, more bold, and more reckless. They were likely only a couple of minutes away from broken windows, broken bones, severe cuts, bruises, head trama … who knows. Showing just how stupid our youth can be, a couple of them were actually in the dumpster, allowing the largest dolt to slam the lid on their heads. This is actually the natural selection process at work. It doesn’t bode well for the two inside the dumpster. After a few moments, the showdown began.

One of the younger thugs noticed me standing and just staring. He glanced once, threw a side kick to the dumpster, and then glanced back again. A couple of synapses sparked, connected, and his frenzied brain alerted him to potential trouble. At once, his body language changed. His crazy, trance-like energy dissipated, giving way to a slightly sheepish posture. Not really knowing what to do next, he quietly slunk off, up the street, and out of my sight. However, he obviously shouted to the other maniacs, because one by one, they broke from their destructive dances and followed their comrade. This left the largest, probably oldest, and most defiant of the goons. He had been slamming the lid down on the others and jumping on it. Having no one left to abuse, he stopped, stood on top of the dumpster and just looked back at me. This is the point where “Do the right thing” becomes, “OK, now what if this little turd doesn’t just shove off?”

In a somewhat challenging display, he jumped off the dumpster and gave it a few more kicks and punches, as if to say “OK, I don’t care if you are looking.” I simply stood and stared. A few more moments passed, and he decided that there was little fun to be had by himself, so he closed the lids and rolled the dumpster back to its proper place. The fact that he put the dumpster back almost made me faint. When he was done, he look up at me. I gave him a nod of thanks, and we went our separate ways. All is well, that ends well. Tom won’t have to come to his shop in the morning and clean up a broken window, an overturned dumpster and who knows what else. There are some Delafield parents that won’t have to pay for damages, or a trip to the emergency room.

More importantly, with all the talk of how things have changed for the worse … in the youth of our society there would still appear to be hope. When I was that age, any adult stopping and challenging what we were doing would most certainly have sent us running for cover. It is simply how we were raised. And yet, it is a common perception that the youth of today are disrespectful and more bold. Or maybe not. Maybe, we as adults have gotten a bit lazy and just need to take the time to invoke “the Stare” when it is warranted. I guess I think we are all responsible for what happens around us. If Dominic were here, I am guessing he would say, “Pal, that was the right thing to do! I am proud of you. Now, let’s go over to the Jockey Outlet store and I’ll buy you a shirt.” Thanks Grandpa.

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2 Responses to “The Stare” Still Works, There is Hope!

  1. Steve Cheney says:

    Jim, most excellent job, thank you. As my girls move into High School this type of face off is occurring with there friends, yes the boys, more than I had expected. It is very nice to see someone else stepping up and keeping the general peace. So unexpected how simply watching will make a group turn to the right path.

    I do however have to point out that it was most likely Bella’s stare that moved the boys along.

    • Susan says:

      I am glad to read that i am not the only parent who embarrasses their children by “doing the right thing”. Bravo Jim!

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