At 11 o’clock this fine Halloween morning, I walked into the bakery just in time to see a customer raging at the counter, unleashing her crazy over one iced sugar cookie. The corn-syrup laden treat at the center of her meltdown was in the shape of Frankenstein’s head and according to her frenzied words, she had asked for it first. My eyes followed her glare to a woman at the opposite counter, patiently waiting as her delicious dozen were boxed up by the salesperson. Since I had just walked in at the tail end of the unfortunate cookie allocation, I can’t say who laid claim to Frank’s edible likeness first, but it was clear who was going to let it completely ruin her day. According to the wronged party, all three of her children were dressing up as Frankenstein so because of the other customer’s inconsiderate behavior, one of her children would be heartbroken beyond consolation. In my opinion, her kids are already at a loss since their individual creativity seems to be lacking. All three dressing up as the same character? Does she not use Pinterest?
The woman at the receiving end of the tirade was, along with the rest of the staff and patrons, at a loss for the right words to remedy her displeasure. Hoping to quiet the monster next to her, the possessor of the last few prized cookies offered to give the iced, bolt-headed object to the woman but with a passionate toss of her hand, she refused. Instead, she loudly expressed her disappointment that someone could be so selfish and rude and that it was just too late to make things better.
As one might guess, her next line was that she had been coming into the bakery for years; she’s one of their best customers. After she left, I asked the bakery Betty (as they like to be called), if this was true. Nope. She’s never seen her before. I wasn’t surprised at this because as a frequent holiday customer, I know that if you show up at this bakery on the morning of any day that prompts the creation of edible frosted shapes coordinated to the celebration, you need to just be thankful that there are little more than crumbs left. That’s why you place an order ahead of time — something I’ve only remembered myself to do once before. Silently, I thought of the saying “a failure to plan on your part does not equal an emergency for me”, but she is likely immune to such wisdom and I didn’t want to add to her incensed fury.
Her tantrum was so bad that we all knew her emotional instability wasn’t really about the cookies. There were several times where her voice started to crack and I actually hoped that she would reach a breaking point and maybe we could all have a Kum Ba Ya moment where we lament that we are all in this together, but that did not happen. In a huff, she paid and then stalked out the door letting us know how embarrassed she was for everyone in the bakery who had wronged her. Determined to make amends, the other woman followed her out to the parking lot still holding the parchment-wrapped Frankenstein in her palm. The cookie found it’s way into the angry lady’s hand but then she marched back into the bakery, placed it on the counter and then shouted into the face of the peacekeeper that she was nuts, crazy and needs mental help. She turned on her heel again, flung the door open, then was gone.
After a few moments of silence, we all exchanged glances as if to ask each other “did that really just happen?” With a weary smile and a lilt in her voice that showed her discombobulation from the group tongue-lashing, the bakery Betty asked if she could help me. Stunned, I approached the counter, unsure of what to ask for because I didn’t even want cookies anymore. The symbolism of the encounter as it relates to the insanity of the current state of things was awash over me. Being This Visible Upset About Decorated Sugar Cookies = All That is Wrong in The World.
For the second time that day, the popular hashtag #firstworldproblems appeared in my thoughts and I thought of my friend Katie who is in Haiti — yes, that rhymes and coincidentally has an appropriate hashtag (#katiegoestohaiti). Sometimes social media causes me to envy, but her postings the last few days have provided a healthy dose of gratitude for all that I have. Just before my bakery stop, I was standing in an unusually long line at the grocery store. It seemed that 7 out of 10 registers were closed due to their operators mysteriously falling ill this Monday morning of Halloween. But it was no problem. I have access to fresh food and the journey to purchase it with the money from my bank account was a short drive from my house and on the way I listened to a book on tape that I checked out from my local library. In Haiti, that’s luxurious affluence. Heck, that’s privilege even in the United States! Seeing the images from Katie’s Instagram feed of grinning children who are content even though their most basic needs struggle to be met had raised my patience and perspective to a significant level. A sugar cookie isn’t even a THING to them, much less something to berate another human being over.
I wish I could have shared that insight with the lady at the bakery — instead of or in additon to the smartass comment I wanted to make about this being a great opportunity to teach her children about dealing with disappointment when she arrived home, greeted by their zig-zag-scar-painted faces with only two-thirds of her intended purchase. But as I’ve learned many times in recent years from the frenzied, image-driven, happiness-for-my-kids-at-all-costs moms I’ve come across over the years, you can’t reason with crazy. I also held back the sage advice of “that’s just how the cookie crumbles.” I knew I had to pick up my kids from school in just a few hours and didn’t have time to be the victim of a physical assault.
So I gave a hug to the woman that was left shocked from the revilement. I told the bakery Bettys that they are doing a great job. Bursting from holding our tongues during the rant, we blurted out to each other “IT’S JUST A COOKIE!” and we collectively shook our heads. Dazed, I picked out a dozen cookies of my own with no concern about how many of each shape I needed. We each did our best to laugh it off. And we all agreed that the “Momster” we just experienced has deeper issues than her irrational ire for misappropriated sugary baked goods.