A tyke's tantrum for all to see

The Baltimore Sun

Stories about little kids who flip out in public have always fascinated me, which is why we present another here today.

This story begins on a Saturday at Dick's, the mammoth sporting goods store, where I have come to buy a pair of running shoes.

The shoes are for the daily exercise walks needed to maintain the sleek, whippetlike physique that is only hinted at in the column picture above.

Anyway, I'm trying on a pair of Nikes when here comes a couple trailing their young daughter in the wary manner in which sheriff's deputies escort prisoners into court.

The little girl is about 4. I spot her as trouble right away. She is frowning and might as well have "Junior Hellion League" stamped across her forehead.

"Leave me alone!" she shouts at her parents. "I want to run!"

Here we go, I think. Showtime.

With that, the girl proceeds to sprint around the green track that encircles the shoe department, a hokey fixture at most Dick's stores that I have never understood.

Apparently it's supposed to give the place a sporty feel. But mainly what it does is serve as an outlet for little kids jacked up on Pepsi and M&M;'s, and this little girl looks like she qualifies.

Anyway, the girl proceeds to run several laps around the track, yelling the whole time.

The place is crowded, too, so she's dodging people and jumping over shoe boxes and generally being a pain in the neck.

The parents do not seem concerned, however. They wear the blank look of MVA clerks and are busy examining a pair of cross-trainers, which they'll need if they're ever going to catch this kid.

Once or twice, the mom looks up and yells: "Ashley, that's enough!"

But it's a halfhearted threat and Ashley knows it. Besides, Ashley the Track Star has no intention of stopping what she's doing.

Ashley, you see, is out of control.

And having a great deal of fun with her out-of-controlness.

On maybe her fourth lap around the place, though, the inevitable occurs: She plows into another little kid, and they both go down.

The other kid starts crying. But Ashley is tough as nails - I see her playing for a women's football team some day, although she may have to 'roid up a little. She quickly picks herself up and starts running around again.

Finally, the father - hooray! - has had enough.

He waits for her to come around again and gets her in some kind of wrestling hold and carries her over to the bench near me.

As you might imagine, the girl does not take this well.

She goes into a full Chernobyl meltdown. She throws herself on the floor and starts kicking and screaming, which the parents choose to deal with by ignoring her.

This, of course, infuriates the girl even more, and her wailing grows louder, until it's so piercing it would shatter a car's headlights.

I don't know if you've ever tried on a pair of shoes with a little kid screaming right next to you, but it's really an experience.

After a few seconds, you're willing to take any shoe - in any size - as long as you can get away from the noise. They could tape-record that screaming and play it on airport runways to keep the geese away.

OK, at this point, I have settled on a pair of shoes and could flee this scene if I want.

But now I have to see how it plays out.

I have to see how long the parents will put up with this little monster kicking and screaming before they say enough's enough and hustle her out the door.

And the answer is: They put up with it for quite a while.

It's probably a good 10 minutes before the parents settle on a shoe, drag the kid to her feet and head for the cash registers. And 10 minutes with a screaming kid is like listening to the whine of 10,000 dentist drills.

As they leave, the little girl is still wailing.

Her parents each have a death-grip on one of her arms. But her eyes are darting from side to side, and you can see what she's thinking:

Maybe I can make a break for it.

Maybe I can get in one more lap around the track before they hunt me down again.

God, I wish she'd try!

But it's too late and soon her wailing grows fainter and fainter.

Everyone in the shoe department seems to take a deep breath.

Showtime is over. And this was one for the ages.

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