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“New York is a theme park for people with IQs over 108.”

10 Aug

August 10, 2011

“New York is a theme park for people with IQs over 108.” -Douglas Coupland

This was told to me by a person who claimed it was true, and it certainly could be. It isn’t very outlandish but with this person, who knows? So I make no claim about if it is true of not, but it could be, and I’ll do my best to tell it as it was told to me.

A friend of mine was in the park the other day with a couple of other friends not long ago. They were just killing time, sitting on a bench and watching the people go by. It was a Saturday so there were a lot of families in the park but one family in particular caught their eye. It was a father and three kids, ages around 5, 6, and 11. They were running around playing while the father got the action on his camcorder. It didn’t seem like anything special, just kid’s games. They were tossing around a large ball, the kind you get in a grocery store, about a foot and half in diameter, soft, with cartoon characters on it. But it soon became clear that it wasn’t exactly a game. The older kid would throw the ball intentionally over the younger kid’s heads, or throw it too short. The little ones would flail around trying to catch it, or have to run for it, and sometimes fall over on the short tosses. The father was recording it and giving the older one directions as well. My friend and her group didn’t hear a lot because of the distance but they once or twice heard the father tell his son to throw it farther away or wait until the other ones weren’t looking. It was kind of a cruel thing to do but no one got hurt and the kids were laughing all the time.

My friend isn’t one to get involved in other people’s business but this was annoying her. She assumed, and I think she’s right, that the father was trying to get “funny” videos of his kids. Watching them scamper around for one or two bad throws might have been cute, but watching it all unfold over ten or fifteen minutes brought out the meanness of it. Knowing that it was all created intentionally made it worse, and using the 11 year old in that way was not teaching him a very good lesson or setting a good example at all. She said she felt dirty watching them.

As I said, she isn’t one to get involved in other people’s business, though she would have if the kids were in any kind of trouble or danger. But though this was unsavory (and might possibly fit some very, very stretched definition of child abuse) there was no reason to butt in so she didn’t but she kept watching.

The ball game petered out and the father put down the camera and they had some lunch sitting on the grass, juice boxes and something wrapped in tin foil that they put a lot of ketchup on. The youngest one, a girl, was playing with a stuffed toy about the size of a beanie baby. My friend couldn’t see what it was but she later found out it was a cat. At one point she held it up to her father as if show it to him, said something, and he guffawed, said (they think) “say that again,” and picked up the recorder to get her for posterity. So the girl said it again and the father guffawed again, though the other two kids (6 and 11) didn’t. The father pointed to some women sitting on the grass not far away and, still filming, must have told his daughter to say to them what she said to him because she toddled over there, not shyly at all, and showed one of them, an older woman, her stuffed cat. My friend still couldn’t hear the words but the girl said something. The woman looked over at the father, who waved with his free hand, and the girl walked back. The women quickly got their things together and headed away.

But they soon came back. And they had a policeman with them.

The group was still too far away to hear a lot of what was said, even though they (not too) discreetly crept forward. What they saw was the man acting very shocked, the women acting very nervous, and the older old boy not being too interested at all in his father’s distress. It didn’t last more than a few minutes, certainly less than ten, and it ended with the policeman looking at the recording, a question or two to the kids, a couple of words to the women, and everyone heading out of the park, going their separate ways, the policeman included.

So what did the girl say that got the women upset enough to get a policeman? My friend asked some other people who were in the area and found out.

What the father thought was so funny that he had to get it on tape, that he had to have his young daughter ask a complete stranger was, as she showed the woman her stuffed cat, “do you want to see my pussy?”

There are many, many serious issues brought up in this story. Did anything in this tale constitute child abuse? Did the strangers over-react? Should the policeman have taken more action? Should this all just be chalked up to a goof?

I’m still trying to decide of it really happened or not.

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