People showed up pretty much between 6:15pm and 7:00pm, exactly as we had planned. Since we were barbecuing with charcoal I suggested that the grill should be loaded up and lit before we make a run to the local grocery store for the last few essentials we needed. So, ten fifteen minutes later I had heaped the charcoal into the grill, poured enough lighter fluid on it to launch the space shuttle and managed to ignite it without singing my eyebrows off -- a feat I am moderately proud of, given the fact that when I had my get-together last year I managed to make the ignition of the charcoal rival a small nuclear blast for intensity.
Regardless of the fact I didn't use liquid oxygen as an ignition catalyst, I got the grill lit and decided that we'd leave Jen to guard the apartment for when Roho showed up, so that Aureth and I could scoot over to Jewel-Osco and procure chips, cola and bunly goodness for our burgers and brats. When the Cornwuff and I returned to the apartment we found that Roho had indeed arrived during our absence, so it was good that we'd left Jen there to wait for him to ring the doorbell. Small talk ensued for a few minutes, and then we piled all our food and condiments onto plates and proceeded to go out the door and over to the gondola, where the grill should have been reaching near-perfect temperature for barbecuing on. As we approached the little portion of the lawn that had been set aside for grills and picnic tables I saw a family sitting at the table right next to our grill. My first thought was, What's this shit? Somebody decided to yoink our spot and steal my charcoal? Dammit, that's lame! As the four of us got closer I noticed that this family had a young boy, maybe three or four years old. This child was running around, picking up dead grass and the mulch that had been spread around the trees, and was proceeding to throw it on the goddamn grill. At this point I was beyond pissed. I was arming myself and was ready to unload on these folks But discretion has always been the better part of valor, so as I approached I put on a tight, controlled smile and continued to watch the little rug rat heap piece after piece of rotted pine tree shreddings upon the grill where I had been planning to cook my food. "Evening," I greeted the team of husband and wife through gritted teeth. I think they heard the sound of my molars grinding against one another like continental plates, because the husband corralled the kid in short order and sort of smiled at me in that vapid, shit eating way that essentially told me he was thinking, "Oh, maybe I did bad. I hope he doesn't thwack me." Which is exactly what I wanted to do, but that's just inherently obvious at this point. "Ah, this is your fire?" he asked me. Is he really this stupid? Okay, assume the lowest common denominator, Fer. "Well, yes. That's why I have meat, and plates, and ketchup, and mustard...." All this time I'm thinking, You goddamn meathead, what, you think I come out here with charcoal, lighter fluid, tongs, a spatula and then spend five minutes stacking charcoal briquettes, hosing them down with fluid and light it once a year just to see how fucking fast I can do it? Because god knows there's a huge market out there for IT professionals who can get a grill lit and ready to barbecue on in under five minutes. What, you didn't know we're in such high demand that corporate sponsors give us free bags of Kingsford to go home and practice with just to make sure we stay on top of the game? What is wrong with you people?! I sort of gaped at this guy in utter disbelief and wondered to myself, Are you just asking me that to make polite conversation, or are you trying to make sure you have a safe distance between you and I should I decide to whack you upside the head with a clue-by-four and give you the sign you so richly deserve? Any ways, at this point the couple has control of their child and is walking down the path towards their building. My grill is now smoking so much thanks to the debris the kid was throwing on there I thought for a moment I had a miniaturized version of Cheech and Chong hanging out on it, toking up a bowl. Jesus wept. The family mumbled something incoherent as they passed by me, kept a good grip on their little ankle biting, grass-flinging menace and walked off, leaving me with a grill that now stank of pine resin and wasn't fit to grill on (Some members of the Pack may argue it wasn't fit to grill on any ways. Pay no attention to them). Outside I was perfectly calm towards these people, but inside I was seething. What the hell were they doing, letting their kid pick up grass from the lawn -- which has no doubt been treated with Chem Lawn at some point in its past -- so he can throw it on a grill somebody obviously is going to use, since they took the time to set it up and left half their utensils there? That's real nice of you to watch after it in case somebody did forget, but frankly, I'd rather they'd not even bothered since they couldn't even have the common decency to keep their kid from throwing lawn refuse on the grill where somebody would shortly be cooking their food.
This goes back to what I said a while ago. Common decency, hell common sense is, in fact, dead. When I was little, which wasn't all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, I was taught to respect other people's property. If it wasn't mine, and I wasn't explicitly given permission to touch it I was to keep my grubby little hands off or there would be beatings aplenty. My father made damned sure that I learned not to screw with the things other people were doing, and not touch other people's property. Now mind you, I'm not saying it's a sign that these "modern times" are worse off than when I was raised. That's not the case, and even I am not foolish enough to delude myself that the era I was raised in was so much more "wholesome." Every generation has had bad things to say about how the generations following it have acted, has had cute little inane things to say about how stupid the fads they've partaken in are, while "back in the day" they had real things to be interested in. I'm just as guilty of this stupidity as the next person, though, since I've done my own share of ripping on kids who are into Pokemon or Barney when, in fact, I was digging big time on G.I. Joe and He-Man when I was their age (and I'm sure people in their mid twenties felt that those two trends, at the time, were just as insipid and annoying as I find Barney and Pikachu to be).
I'm digressing, though. The point here is that this isn't even that hard a concept to follow: the kid should not have been allowed to dirty the grill somebody was clearly using with debris from the landscaping. I don't throw clods of dirt on their kitchen table. Why was it okay for this guy to let his kid toss pinecones on my grill? A little common decency from my fellow neighbors would be appreciated. You want to know why people snap on the highway or in the post office, whip out their Uzi and start mowing people down like they're ducks on a shooting range at the local carnival? This is why. This is the sort of brainless act that could be prevented if only the parent had taken a moment to participate in the act of raising their child. Contrary to what many baby-boomers seemed to believe, kids do not raise themselves. The TV is not a substitute teacher or mentor. You need to actively step into your child's life and provide some guidance, or the next thing you know he's going to be kicking back on your $3,000 leather couch, burning holes in it with a spare sparkler from the Fourth of July and reciting lyrics from the latest anime. When you ask him why he decided to do it, I hope you know that YOU are to blame when he says with perfect innocence "Why shouldn't I?" YOU need to intervene and tell your kid about what is right and what is wrong, take a moment out of your BUSY day of polishing your new Mercedes SUV to explain why throwing rocks at the neighbor's windows is wrong, and maybe just actually be a goddamned parent for once in your life TAKE some responsibility for the life you've brought into this world. You don't like society, you think there's something wrong with it? Well, listen up champ, you're PART OF THE GODDAMN PROBLEM. You and the rest of the people who refuse to do anything about raising your child with more ethics than a wood tick are the reason society is crumbling around us. Maybe if you focused on the poor kid when he's pulling on your pant leg, asking you to tell him a bedtime story or help him go to the bathroom because he's afraid the monster in the drain will get him you'd be closer to him or her and better able to infuse some sort of moral imperative about what is right and wrong in the world. You've heard people say that "the children are our future," haven't you? Well, wake up and smell the greenhouse gasses, if you want to make a difference, if you want to make this world a better place, interact with your child and teach them what YOU think is right.
You never know, they might just go out in the world in ten years and spread ideals YOU approve of and want to see, rather than trying to burn down a warehouse because they couldn't have a rave there.