If only their parents knew

Is it so hard to walk a few steps to a garbage can?

We can measure our parenting success by how well our children follow rules when out of our sight and not monitored by a teacher, coach, police or other authority. However, following the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots and the many arrested and charged when social media supplied cops with video evidence, our young folk should realize they cannot count on being unobserved any more, anywhere, any time. Even a person carrying no tech devices could observe them as I did last Thursday forenoon.

June 12 was warm and sunny as I walked from the Medical Building to the library. Teachers’ rotating picketing was underway. Four young teens gathered on the steps of the George Little band shell; one skateboarded short runs back and forth.

I met no one else until I turned in at the library.

A boy about 10 stood near the bicycle rack beside the garbage can, shifting from foot to foot, stuffing food into his mouth with both hands as though practising for a hot dog eating contest. A take-out drink waited on the concrete handrail. Clearly embarrassed to be seen by someone old enough to be his great-grandmother, this closet eater dithered for a second, the way a feeding squirrel pauses to assess danger, before wedging more food into his bulging cheeks.

I proceeded into the library: returned a book, and scanned titles of new non-fiction on the shelves near the washroom before going into the magazine area. There the boy sat on a sofa, reading. Though food and drink are prohibited in the library – a bold foyer sign says so – in full view on the coffee table in front of him was his takeout drink.

How had he evaded the desk clerk with his drink? The library was quiet, nearly empty – no kindergarten groups, no class tours, no bustle of patrons coming or going. Did his parents’ possess some personal clout that let him believe he had special permission to ignore library rules?

My time in the library was short, maybe 10 minutes. On my way out, on the walkway pavement beside the garbage can where the boy had stood I came upon a round, cocoa-coloured object, smaller than a golf ball, with a dusty appearance. When I nudged it with my toe it felt spongy and rolled toward the curb. Half a dozen more balls lay scattered about, and sitting upright among them, an empty TimBits box … all within arm’s reach of the garbage can.

A box of twenty TimBits costs $3.70. An average cold drink $2.

I reviewed events. The boy had been eating as I arrived. Except for the boy few if any patrons had entered the library after me. This kid was neatly dressed, his hair freshly barbered. If he could afford $5.70 for a mid-morning snack and discard a good portion of it on the ground, he wasn’t orphaned, poor or hungry. He was deliberately flouting rules including an $81 fine for wasteful unsightly littering.

My instincts told me to march back inside, sit down beside the kid and sternly say, “I noticed you left TimBits and a cardboard container scattered over the library walkway. How would you like to come pick them up and put them in the garbage can where they belong?”

Would he have argued, “I didn’t do it.”? Become nasty and let fly a string of four-letter words? Or owned up to his transgression and tided up behind himself, however unwillingly?

I’ll never know. Gutlessly, I let the incident slide by. But I fumed as I walked away and I’m still kicking myself for allowing him to go on thinking he’s safe to behave as he pleases so long as his parents don’t know.

Claudette Sandecki keeps a close eye on the world from her home in Thornhill – and when she’s out in Terrace, B.C.