The weekends will often find me sitting in Starbucks. While there are many other, smaller coffee shops that have superior ambiance, where I am less likely to be disturbed by screaming children, for some reason I prefer the ever-changing, noisy crowd of people in Starbucks. Often I create my own atmosphere with my iPod, but occasionally, I enjoy the murmur of couples chatting intimately in Korean, the stray English that floats over to my table, and the laughter or cries of small children.
One crowded morning, as I sat reading, the frustrated cries of a young child jerked my thoughts away from the words on the page. Looking up, I noticed an incredibly cute little girl, probably around 3 years old, trying to get attention from her mother, who was busy with a younger sibling. I smiled and shook my head when I saw her mother immediately jump to attention and attempt to deal with her whining daughter.
The girl continued to whimper about something or other. I assumed it was about a pastry because of the gestures and blubbering accompanying the tears. Her mother talked to her a bit but returned to fussing over the younger sibling. Two children and not enough of mom to go around. The girl’s sobbing continued, varying in volume depending on how much attention she thought she was attracting. Huge crocodile tears streamed down her face, but she was fine. I looked back at my book, but continued to smirk because I understood.
This was not a girl in distress because she had hurt herself. Rather, she wanted attention and knew if she was loud enough, her mother would stop whatever she was doing and come running.
As she continued to throw a mini-tantrum, I saw out of the corner of my eye that her mother had finished with the younger sibling and crouched down to talk to her and give her a hug. The girls sobs continued, though a bit softer than before, so I looked up, again.
The girl saw me, paused for a split-second, then continued to sob and rub her eyes with her fists while staring at me. She was being silly, so I smiled at her.
Suddenly, the crying ceased.
The spigot turned off.
She gave me a half-smile.
Her mother, whose back was toward me was visibly taken aback. I’m sure she thought, “What the hell just happened?” Then the mother saw her daughter looking at something or someone, so she turned around. Obviously surprised to see a waygook (foreigner), she appeared a tad bewildered. We made slight bows to each other in understanding, though the astounded look did not leave her face.
I laughed to myself …
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