Yesterday, PG and I went down to his warehouse to wash my car. His warehouse is fairly near his place, and he keeps his hobby car and all his car parts and all his tools there. It’s a jumbled, decrepit mess of a place, and really should be torn down, in my humble opinion. PG agrees, but he and his brother-in-law, who owns the warehouse with him, are waiting for the right offer. There are many highrise apartment buildings in that particular area of town, so I’m pretty sure that some developer will come to them one day with a good offer. Then PG and his brother-in-law will make tonnes of money, and then PG can spend much of it on ME.
Well, that’s MY plan, anyway. I don’t know what his is, but I don’t care. I like mine better.
But seriously, the best thing about car-washing at PG’s rancid old warehouse is that PG does everything. All I have to do is rinse. He gets the hose out, the bucket and soap and everything. He washes the car. He scrapes the bug goo off. He gets to scratch himself digging around the spokes of the wheels. I literally just stand there with the hose, looking good. I like that.
So I let PG out of the car by the front entrance of the warehouse so he could go and open the garage door at the back, then I slowly drove around to the back entrance, which is where we wash. On my way, I spotted a gaggle of Asian kids, about ten of them, ranging in ages from maybe 3 up to 12 or so. As I approached, I saw the littlest one bend down and pick up a rock. A rather large rock for a rather small boy. I stopped the car. The kid threw the rock forcefully into the alley, just ahead of me. The other kids froze. Of course, the rock missed my car entirely, since I’d had the foresight to stop when the boy picked up the rock. I started rolling very slowly again, looking directly at the little boy, shaking my head and mouthing “No!”
I parked behind the warehouse, where PG met me, hose in hand. I told him what had happened, and we both lamented the lack of parent supervision. You know, that old “Kids these days!” complaint that we middle-agers do so often.
And then the whole group of Asian kids came round to the back of the warehouse. One of the older ones, a girl of about twelve, said hesitantly, “Did somebody throw a rock at you?”
I nodded. “Yep, that little guy right there. He didn’t hit my car, though.”
All the kids shuffled around a bit and looked very worried. The girl spoke again. “That’s my little brother. He’s three. I’m really sorry he did that!”
“It’s okay,” I answered. “He’s just a little boy. Little boys do things like that. And like I said, he didn’t hit my car.”
She nudged him forward. He looked up at me and said, in a grave little voice,”Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I reassured him – and the other kids, who still looked concerned. “No harm done. I just don’t want him to throw rocks at cars ever again. I’m sure you’ve told him that already.”
“Yeah, I did,” she replied. “But I’m still really sorry he did it.”
At that point, a couple of the other kids bravely stepped forward and peeked into the warehouse, where PG’s hobby car – or pieces of it – was parked. They started asking questions about it, like why was it there, how do you take cars apart anyway, what was going to happen to it, why wasn’t there any glass in it. I answered as best I could, as PG had disappeared to fill the bucket with hot water from the bathroom tap somewhere in the bowels of the warehouse. Then the kids went on to ask about the warehouse, wanting to know if I lived in it and what exactly was a warehouse. They wanted to know why I was going to clean my car, as they considered it pretty clean. I showed them how filthy the wheels were, and they all peered seriously at the brake dust.
And then a teenage girl, probably an older sister who’d been told to watch all the younger kids and had somehow missed the actual rock-throwing episode, joined us. She too looked rather worried. “Did he really throw a rock at your car?” she questioned, indicating the young culprit.
“Yes, he did, but he didn’t hit anything. It’s okay,” I responded.
The teenager glared at the little boy, then looked back at me apologetically. “I am SO SORRY!” she exclaimed. “He shouldn’t have done that!”
“He did apologize,” I told her. “He’s only a little boy and he didn’t hit my car.”
She shook her head. “I know, but he shouldn’t have done it. I’m REALLY, REALLY SORRY!”
At that point, all the kids went back up the alley to where they had been playing earlier. PG came back with the bucket full of soapy, hot water and we began to wash my car.
And then the little boy’s mother came over to us, pulling her son by the hand.
“I’m his mother,” she began, her Korean accent strong. “I wanted to say how sorry I am that he threw a rock at your car.”
Once again, I tried to explain that there was no damage done, and that I understood that little kids did things like that, and that really, it was fine.
She apologized again, and pushed her son gently in front of her and whispered to him, “What do you need to say?”
He looked near tears now, and it was obvious that he wasn’t going to say a word, so I interjected, “He already said he was sorry. I think some of the older kids had a little talk with him, and they made him apologize already. Really, it’s okay!”
The little boy looked relieved, and the mom smiled. And apologized again. Then they went back up the alley to join the rest of the kids, who were standing around looking uneasy.
I looked at PG. He looked at me. “You know, ” I said slowly, “I’m feeling a little uncomfortable with all that apologizing. I feel like I should be apologizing to them for them having to apologize to me!”
He nodded. “Yes, but that’s good parenting. Consequences for bad behaviour. Pretty rare these days, isn’t it?”
He was right. Involved parents who make their kids responsible for their own behaviour aren’t nearly as common as they should be – and I should know, being a teacher and all.