I’ve gotten into the habit lately, of hanging out at Starbucks. I don’t like the coffee in Europe and it’s a little slice of home in every cup (it’s also WAY cheaper than in Canada and most places offer 50% off if you bring in the previous day’s receipt).
Tonight, I thought that, instead of bringing my phone, I’d bring my book and sit peacefully without the thought of checking twitter every 10 minutes. I finished my coffee and, strangely, kept reading. I thought a few times that I should leave because it was getting late but still I stayed and read and read and read.
Suddenly, I heard screaming. I looked up to see a child crying and a mother screaming at her in a panic. I figured that the girl just wanted something and the mother had said no and they were arguing. As they continued to argue, I realized that I was in Starbucks — what could the kid possibly want? A muffin? Then I understood as the mother screamed at a barista — the mother’s iPad with all of their vacation photos had been stolen and she wanted the barista to watch her little girl while she went after the thief.
The girl was maybe 5 years old.
Here’s the weird thing (well, weird to me). No one cared.
The girl stood there, screaming and crying and the barista went back to work and everyone carried on with their lives.
After about 5 minutes I went over and tried to comfort the girl. She spoke English well enough to keep saying “Momma’s gone, Momma’s gone” and I had to keep telling her that her mom would be coming back and look, her purse and shopping bags are still here.
While comforting her, I realized that people were staring at us. One couple came up and asked me, in Portuguese, and then in English, why her mother would leave? Where were we from? Did this happen in our country? It was only an iPad
I explained that I was just helping the girl calm down and I had nothing to do with the situation. They laughed to themselves, we talked a bit about how I was a babysitter and then they left. Another man asked me to stop my friend’s child from screaming so loudly.
1) Who the HELL leaves their 5 year old to chase after a iPad?
2) Who the HELL notices this and doesn’t help?
It got worse.
The mother came back, noticed that her child was safe and left again. She didn’t come back for another 20 minutes (she was gone about half an hour in all).
Try comforting a little girl after that. After her mother comes back to her, doesn’t say a word and then leaves again. I was getting more and more enraged. HOW could she do that? Long-time readers know that something similar happened to me a bit over a year ago but the difference is that, when I chased after my thief, I left a bag of groceries — she left a human being, incapable of caring for herself.
Around 9.15 I decided that the entire situation was ridiculous. I began to feel ridiculous for getting involved. I asked the girl if she wanted a cookie or something but she just cried harder. I mentally gave the mother until 9.30 before I asked the baristas to call the police (something, IMHO, they should have done as soon as the woman took off). I settled in for a long night of waiting and explaining the situation to the Lisbon Police Department.
Fortunately, the mother showed up at 9.25 or something and the police didn’t need to get involved. The mother thanked me and the little girl looked SO HAPPY that I didn’t have the heart to start lecturing the woman. The couple that questioned me at the beginning of the ordeal waved good-bye to me on my way out and I rushed home through darkened alleyways, thankful that I didn’t have my phone with me.
Photo, ironically, by Thefthunters in Paradise. Actual picture of Lisbon’s Starbucks
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