Her hands moved quickly and efficiently through the paperwork. School rules can be so complicated. Had I filled everything out correctly? Her eyebrows stayed at a steady angle. Never raising, never lowering. Everything must be fine.
She was older, a grandmother perhaps. My attention was drawn from the task to the colorful elastics she wore on her wrist. I knew them immediately as Silly Bandz, the silicone rubber bands molded to look like just about anything. They had become notorious during the last months of the previous school year.
Kids ringed their arms with them until not a smidgen of skin was left showing. Teachers and administrators scorned them, since the effect of their existence may be cause for disruption. They had even made their way on to my own wrist, plucked - as I imagine this woman came by hers - from the floor while sweeping.
Innocuous and yet infuriating.
Ittybit came home from school with one of the demon bands a few days after news flooded the world about these dastardly abominations of office supply. Her school bus driver had given it to her. It might as well have been a band of gold for all her gloat.
"Isn’t it beautiful?" she asked, not at all like a question.
"It sure is," I laughed, thinking of the half-dozen rubber bands – virtually identical -- I'd bought on impulse at a museum shop four years ago … a pink pig, a yellow goose, a green goat. … I don’t remember what else, beside the original set having a much higher price tag and a lower rate of interest. They disappeared into the crevices of our home within a matter of days.
They were rubber bands, after all, and in addition to being easily forgotten were also prone to higher mammals (such as my husband) launching them toward small objects in an effort to knock them over for imaginary points. "Pig goes in for the pepper, but Goose gets in there for an upset. And the crowd goes wild … HARR."
Not everyone has such an imagination.
Certainly not the mother waiting in line behind us with paperwork of her own, who gave Ittybit the stink-eye the moment she saw the band wrapped around her wrist. I was smiling when she rushed over to me with an accusingly helpful tone of alarm: "You do realize her teachers don't allow those in the classrooms," she hissed. "I don't even let my daughter have them. Such a distraction, you know. Awful, awful distraction."
I just laughed and said I thought it was silly.
"They are not the devil incarnate. They are just rubber bands. Silly, clever little elastics that serve any number of purposes. Admiration, in the form of collectible shapes and phosphorescent shades, is probably long overdue."
I can't say as I blame her for keeping her distance after that. The cardinal rule in parenting has always been to disavow whatever it is that Kids Today are into. Short dresses, fast cars, long hair, rock music, pierced body parts, rubber bands that look like cows … All that stuff leads to sex and drugs and civil disobedience. There are rules. They must be followed.
Silly Bandz must be stopped.
Admittedly, I didn't care much about the Silly Bandz protests when the media plucked them off of Twitter one slow news day. I was more concerned about schools requiring doctors' orders and med-certified staff members to apply sunscreen to my kid before going outside mid-day.
And yes, I did make a pest of myself trying to get a reason why the administration would adopt a sun policy that undermined health curriculum, which stresses the use of protective clothing and sunscreen.
The first answer I got was an administrative one: There’s a tremendous increase in the number of children with allergies. I didn’t buy it. One child that the nurse knew of didn’t seem to me to be an overwhelming increase.
I asked again. "Teachers take the time to have children wash their hands before they eat. They require hats, boots and snow pants for winter weather. Why not practice the importance of wearing of hats in the sun and the use of sunscreen?"
The second answer was more honest at least: It's not fair to expect teachers to do a parent's job. If a parent wants their child to have sunscreen, they should apply it before school. The End. Thank you for calling.
I asked other parents but found few interested in raising any eyebrows let alone pitchforks. Sun damage doesn’t seem high on anyone’s radar. It’s definitely not as fun as ranting on Silly Bandz. Twenty years down the road, after all, isn't as pressing as right this very minute.
I shrugged my shoulders and let it drop. I decided to pick up a package of fruit-shaped elastics instead.