I was in the DMV. I had been sitting there for a little while. This was my first time in the new DMV. This era where you are only there for an hour or less. I was used to the stereotypical image of back when it was a prison term to have to go there.
I brought a book of my own, expecting to wait for a while, but I ended up people watching. I've always enjoyed looking at strangers. Guessing their stories and histories, and studying their behaviors.
There was an African-American woman with an infant who had come in and sat down close to me. I saw her and thought to myself how annoying it was going to be to have a crying baby screaming across from me. I got a look at the baby's face. The little girl was beautiful; with huge and curious eyes and cute chubby cheeks. She was very small yet alert, looking around at all of us admiring her. I watched her movements. How her mother held her close and with pride. Kissing her every so often, and constantly primping her collar or bonnet, not coming off as slightly annoyed for having to sit here. She had her child to distract her from the scene.
An older heavy set man with a red face and too much clothes on came walking in, heading in our direction. This was fall, a slight chill in the air, yet this guy looked like he had enough layers on to march along the Northern Swiss countryside. Well overdressed for the season; he took off his outer jack and hung it over his shoulder. He had a red face, you couldn’t tell if was red from the cold, or from alcohol. He walked passed us and went to sit down.
He noticed the little girl and stopped. She turned and looked at him and he gave a little wave hello. Her mother’s face beamed with pride that her child was such a beacon for such attention. He asked how old she was, her mother stated 10 months.
‘She is adorable’ he said and he leaned over and touched her sleeve to tap her and play with her. He mothers face suddenly turned into a look of discomfort. He made giggling child-like noises as jiggled her arm though the coat. Then he went to touch her face and her mother’s arm intuitively shot up and covered the child’s face. The only word she could get out of her mouth was ‘No’! The old man’s arm flinched back towards him. “Oh, I’m sorry; I just wanted to touch her…’ He motioned to touch the infant’s face again and the woman turned her body away from the man, covering the child’s face entirely ‘I said no, NO’. She then reached for the man’s arm with her forearm and looked up at him in disgust. ‘Are you crazy? You don’t go just touching people’s face’.
He stood there, awkward and uncomfortable. ‘I just… I’m sorry… I…’ and he turned to look for the seat he was about to take. It had already been taken. He gathered himself together and walked around the other way and continued on out of my vision.
The woman sucked her teeth and looked around for support and amazement. The people around us all seemed to give off the attitude that they also found his actions to be unusual.
I felt bad for the guy. I fully understood where the mother was coming from. People don’t just go putting their hands on the faces of stranger’s infants. But I think he was just naive in his actions. Obviously the woman was well within her right, but I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed for him.
The image of a stranger appreciating a child’s innocence and beauty quickly changed into an act of some kind of accidental bio-terrorism.