"I need you to put this away somewhere," the woman informed me. "I'm afraid my baby is going to hurt herself on it." Apparently, simply telling her daughter to stop climbing the chair wasn't a viable option.
I apologized and wheeled the chair into our storage room.
Ten minutes later, I saw another customer chastising the little girl for rearranging a display of biscotti. The customer asked me where the girl's mother was and I answered that I honestly wasn't sure where the woman had gone.
"Keep an eye on this one," the customer said. "She's taking everything."
Taking everything? I stepped out from behind the counter to see exactly what was going on. The little girl, it turns out, had been doing some redecorating: A few dozen gift cards had been taken from their display and arranged in random piles all over the shop.
I collected all the cards I could find and searched for the mother. When I found her, sitting at a table that faced the window, I showed her the stack of gift cards in my hand.
"Excuse me," I said. "Could you please keep an eye on your daughter? I just found these cards spread all over the store."
The woman looked up at me, annoyed, and snapped, "Well, you can tell her too."
I was baffled. This woman was actually angry at me for not watching her daughter for her while she was relaxing in the corner with her latte. Clearly, she had taken the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child" to mean that the child's parents are thus relieved of all responsibility.
Then I began to wonder... the mother had said, "Well, you can tell her too." I had assumed that she meant that I could tell the little girl, "Excuse me, don't run around tossing gift cards like confetti," but maybe that wasn't it.
What, exactly, was the mother suggesting I could tell her daughter?
"Excuse me, little girl, don't get your heart set on trying to get your mom to notice you. Your chances are really not looking good."
"Excuse me, little girl, but I have to say that you've got the right idea collecting all those gift cards. Money isn't a substitute for a mother's love, but it's certainly a good start."
"Excuse me, little girl, but you don't have to feel invisible. Your mother may not be monitoring your every move, but the government probably is."
Sadly, the woman collected her daughter and left the shop before I had a chance to ask her to elaborate.