The first weekend of the Howard County, Maryland Fair (“How Cow“) 2009 is through the chute. I am wiped out and hoarse, but also exhilarated to be camped out in the forest my beloved necklace branches and Karuna Arts batiks again. The sounds of customers tinking on the bamboo xylophone and rubbing the frog mating calls, shaking the juju bean rattles, tossing the cicada stones, etc.; These never get old for me.
Parents endlessly hissing, “Don’t touch anything,” that got old the first time.
I wouldn’t have packed fourteen tables to the gills with colorful shinies if I didn’t want little ones to touch them. When are parents going to read a book and get it that children are tactile and learn about their world through touch? “Don’t touch, just look,” they say. Duh. Children’s eyes are on their fingertips. They have to touch to look. Then there’s the enlightened, well meaning parent who says, “Look with your eyes…”
This is why I long ago decided my booth’s rule would be, “No leaving until you’ve touch everything. Now get busy!” Then I made the policy, “We don’t charge for breaking.”
I save broken things from Heathcote Earthings and my friends at Crystal Cottage in Roanoke, Virginia and I sell them on special scratch & dent tables at certain shows. How Cow is one of our clearance shows.
Nine times out of ten, however, when something gets broken, yours truly has done it, not someone’s grabby kid.
Besides developmental appropriateness, I also get frustrated with parents following their children around, pulling their paws back and barking, “don’t touch,” because if the parent is policing his or her kid, the parent isn’t shopping. I imagine that grumpy shopkeepers who are not also child development specialists have trained generations of parents to curb their kids. How does this not grind the economy to a halt?
My friend Herb, lovable curmudgeon that he is, follows greasy fingered tykes around his store, abandoning his pursuit of sales to do it. Granted, he sells more breakables than I do. And he pays young people to Windex fingerprints off his inventory. I skip this step mostly, and feel I have a measure of peace in life.
My observation about this drama is that, the shopkeeper isn’t focused on selling, the kid and the parent aren’t focused on buying. The store gets to keep its inventory, fingerprint free, and the parent and the customer who gets ignored get to keep their money. That’s one nice outcome but…
I have signs around my booth that read, “shoplifters will be hexed.” I often get asked if I’m worried about shoplifting at my booth, where so many tiny items are packed so tightly in a big space. My philosophy is the same for theft as for children. I don’t like it, but if I become paranoid and focus my attention on who in the crowd might be stealing, then I’m not focused on who in the crowd is ready to buy. I might catch a few sticky fingers if I try, but probably not. Their job is to steal and they’re good at it. I’m not a detective. I’m not good at that. I have some talent for sales. Let’s all stick with what we’re good at.