April 7, 2006 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

Costco has become a great weekend hangout for the entire family. Where else can you spend hours walking indoors where it’s nice and warm in winter, or cool in summer, and get to munch on all kinds of free food samples? Not only do you find great prices, but it has become a social institution as well, a place the odds are good that you’ll bump into someone you know every trip. On Saturdays when my wife goes one direction, mine is to Costco.

It is also a place where some of the strangest behavior is there for all to see, and as this event illustrates, just how much out of touch with reality certain families have become.

Gimme Some of That Pie!

Some weeks ago–and after my 6 course Costco lunch–samples of Progresso Soup, Hormel Chili, Salmon Spread, breath mints, marinated beef and Welch’s Grape Juice (Just what the gastroenterologist recommended) I wandered into the baked goods department, to a demo station with samples of blueberry pie. As the demo lady was cutting up the pie, a small line of about six customers formed, waiting patiently.

Suddenly, a young and incredibly obese boy–whom I would later learn was 9–ran to the front of the line, bumping people out of the way so that he could be at the very front. I was a few feet away, and this example of morbid childhood obesity had no apparent intention of respecting anyone in line. He had a look about him–almost a driven look. You could read it in his face: “Pie!!!! I am going to get a Piece of that Pie!!” He had all the charm of Dracula waiting for a drink.

“Don’t you think it would be nice to wait in line like everyone else?” said a man about 60, and smiled nicely at the boy. This resulted in the kid instantly running away, to his mother. The following scene would have been funny, were it not sad, as mom and son marched right back to the pie station, to the gentleman who suggested her son merely wait his turn.

“What did you say to my boy?” She yelled. “I just told him that he should wait in line like everyone else,” was his calm reply. “You made him cry!” mom screamed. “You should apologize to him!” His answer: “No ma’am, you should apologize for obviously not teaching him manners.” And at that point, the Demo Lady added, “This happens all the time. Parents who just do not teach manners any more. Good for you, sir!”

“I Can Make This Difficult!”

That should have been the end of this episode in bad parenting, but was not. Within less than a minute, the rest of the family caught up with the gentleman, and the entire situation appeared ripe for confrontation. “My name is Willy. Why did you make my nephew cry?” bellowed a short, slight, thirty-something man, standing with the other family members. They were all enormous people, shopping carts filled the stuff that makes Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig a lot of money. If you needed an example of how morbid obesity is a family disease, this was it. But in this family’s case, stupidity was tossed in as part of the bargain. But the way the older gentleman handled it was professional – cool, plain cool.

He first extended his hand, and, as a reflex, Willy shook his hand. “I’m pleased to meet you, Willy! Now, your nephew barged in front of people who were waiting in line for a sample of pie. That’s what happened, and I just told him that he should wait like everyone else. Was that wrong?”

“Any 9 year old kid would go to the front of the line,” answered Willy. “I expect you to apologize to him.” “No, I’m not going to do that, Willy. He needs to learn manners, not to have unacceptable behavior reinforced,” he said, loud enough so that all the family members standing there could hear. “I could become really ugly!” Willy blurted out. “Ah, you’re a nice guy, Willy,” said the older man, and shook his hand again, giving him a warm smile. Willy stood there, now receiving angry looks from his own family members. He was masterfully cheated out of a fight.

During this exchange, I noticed that the boy’s mother was glancing in my direction, and as the older man walked away, she approached me and said, “I know who you are, you’re Dennis Beaver, the lawyer! Can’t we sue that old man??”

“Sue him? For what? For doing your son a favor? For preventing this silly situation from becoming dangerous; Why even dream of suing him? No, ma’am, you’ve got it all wrong. You should have thanked him,” I replied, noticing that Willy was now glaring at me.

The demo lady handed me my sample of pie, and I in turn gave it to the next person in line.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.