SOMETIMES SPILLED MILK CAN BE A GOOD THING
This past Sunday I was just about done with my morning shift in the dairy aisle. Just a touch up or two and I could head out sipping a well deserved coffee. As I was checking the sell by date on a cup of yogurt, my eye caught a father and son up near the milk section. The kid and his dad were checking out the gallons. I’d say the young fellow was maybe eight or so. He could have been older. I don’t tell age that well anymore. The two of them seemed happy enough. There was talk of getting a coffee cake.
Like most kids his age, the young fellow wanted to help. He insisted in carrying the gallon jug. Dad said ok and, off they went walking behind me. At first, the son carried the bottle by its handle but, they do get heavy. To make it easier, he hoisted the bottle onto his shoulder. That’s a kind of macho way to lug anything. Pirates walking kegs of gunpowder or rum up the gangplank carry things that way. John Wayne used to heft cannon barrels to the other side of the Alamo like that.
This is all well and good for pirates and Davy Crockett but, kids holding milk like that isn’t the best of plans. I was going to say something but, gee he was with his dad. They only had seventy five feet to go. I went back to checking for yogurt outdates. Then, I heard it.
The little guy was hollering, “But Dad. It was an accident!!!!” It sure as heck was.
I turned to see the two of them down near the bread section. The kid was almost in tears. He had his hands up in pleading despair. Dad, has his hands on his hips and was shaking his head. It was a scene of total grief and confusion as one gallon of two percent Americas Choice flowed and spread from in front of the rye bread section to well past the Twinkies shelf.
Hands on my hips, I arrived on the scene. The kid was very upset. He hollered, “It was an accident. The bottle fell off my shoulder. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I was wrong to hold it on my shoulder. It just slipped. I’m sorry.” Dad was strangely quiet. His son was on a roll. The kid continued. “What can I do to help? It’s all my fault!!”
I tried to think before I spoke. Many times in my life, I’ve found myself in the same pickle as this little guy. I remembered how it felt to be standing in front of a broken window waiting for the old guy who lived next door to call my folks. It’s not the greatest of feelings to be caught red handed. I got my hands off my hips and figured it best to stroke my beard instead.
I tried to choose my words. “It’s just a gallon of milk guys. The cows will make more. No big deal.” I saw that they wanted to help. “Tell you what men. You guys stand guard and don’t let anyone walk in this stuff. I’ll go get some warning signs.” I headed off to find a few wet floor markers. You’d have thought that the kid was guarding the president. I found the markers and brought them to the scene. I gave the kid one to place on the far side of the milk pond. He adjusted it just right. I told them to keep an eye on things while I went to get the mop and bucket. The milk was spreading fast.
In the mop room, I chose the red bucket because it sort of looked like an ambulance. With a fresh mop on board, I headed for the accident scene. The milk had really spread out by the time I got there. This was going to be a big deal.
The kid asked if he could do the mopping. I had to say no because I had to work fast. I didn’t want him slipping and falling into the puddle. I said something about how I learned to mop in the Navy. Unfortunately, that’s about all I learned in the service but, I did learn it well. All those screaming chiefs would have been proud of me as I sopped up that milk in record time.
Still, we weren’t done yet. The milk was up but, old milk residue can get a bit ripe in due time. I told the guys that we had to do a rinse. The kid thought that to be a good idea and said he’d keep folks from venturing into the danger zone. I went off to the mop room for fresh warm water. This was getting to be fun.
The rinse went well. Soon, there would be no chance of foul odors in the bread aisle. In a few short moments once again the aisle would no longer be a danger to humanity. The kid was all smiles. He asked if he and his dad could pay for the milk. I said that wasn’t necessary because it was an honest accident. Now he was really smiling. I think his allowance was going to suffer a spilled milk levy. The crisis was over.
I showed the kid that the right way to hold a milk jug is to always grab the handle. I also told him how once I spilled twenty four bottles of milk back in the cooler. Oh God was that a mess. He said he was sorry one more time and, I said that was ok one more time too. He and his dad went off to check out the coffee cake section.
You know, grownups could learn quite a bit from this wonderful kid. Accidents happen in life. Mistakes are made. But, if you’re sorry, and do your best to make things right and also, learn from the mistake, in most cases the world will keep on turning and you’ll learn a thing or two. I’m proud of that kid. If he can keep that attitude, he’ll goof up now and then, but he’ll be the better for it.