In the tight 30-minute space I had this afternoon between picking up Mr13 and picking up MissNine from their schools today, I decided to fit in a trip to Ross Dress For Less. (Do you think that there's a guy called Ross Dressforless somewhere in the world? Oh, I hope so.) I am nearly physically unable to make myself pay full retail for anything, so I get quite a bit of the family gear from places like Ross and TJ Maxx and Marshall's, and I think we look pretty decent on most days. Anyway, my practiced eagle-eye was zooming in on potential scores on the clothing racks when I gradually become aware of a very loud, repeated sound, which could accurately be compared to THIS.

Everyone else in the store was also aware of it, as I could see in the turning heads, frowns, and clucking disapproval noises coming from the other shoppers. This terrible, brain-melting sound was not at all a Moluccan Cockatoo, but what looked to be an 18-mo-old boy rattling around unsecured in his mother's bright blue Ross shopping cart. He was not ill or injured, just VERY VERY UNHAPPY about shopping at Ross that day. Now, as a parent, I totally understand that young children are prone to making loud outbursts of displeasure or joy; they are to be expected and, I believe, reasonably tolerated. HOWEVER, Mrs. Moluccan Cockatoo earns my digital wrath today, for she did absolutely NOTHING to better her child's shopping experience nor show the rest of us shoppers and the captive Ross workers any consideration whatsoever by taking her child out of the store until he was calm. She slowly kept on shopping, stopping often to text or look at an item of clothing, completely ignoring her child and the blindingly obvious aural discomfort he was causing EVERYONE.

This kept on for the entire 30 minutes of my Ross visit. The child's screeching was so loud that you could not hear the music over the store PA (a good thing) or have a single unshattered thought (a bad thing). I wondered if somehow he had grabbed a discount kitchen implement and had accidentally disemboweled himself in the cart; no, I looked, no baby entrails strewn about. Had he pinched his fingers in the cart? No. Was he on fire? No. Was his mother on fire, and he was trying desperately to alert us? Sadly, no.

It gets better, folks.

As I made my way towards the checkout, I made the mistake of looking to my right for a nanosecond at a shiny object in the purse aisle. BAM!!! My cart received quite a jolt, and I was startled and instantly VERY VERY UNHAPPY. As I looked over, I saw yet another toddler and her sister, who was about three years old, and that they had teamed together to procure an empty Ross cart and were happily busy slamming it into anything in their path. WELL, OK, I seethed to myself, THEY ARE VERY VERY YOUNG, BUT WHERE IS THEIR G*DD*MNED MOTHER? OH. OH. LIKE FIVE FEET AWAY, WATCHING AND NOT DOING ANYTHING. I SEE. I stared at her in disbelief as she stood, WATCHING THEM, and TEXTING, and NOT WATCHING HER OTHER TWO KIDS EITHER. Did I miss something? Was Ross having a sale on HELL today?

After about two minutes Mrs. Cart Slam made the weakest possible effort to reign in her daughters, saying in the quietest, lamest voice, "Hey. Stop. You guys." Of course, the kids either didn't hear her or didn't care, and no one at Ross was willing to step in and say, YOU KNOW, MA'AM, IT'S A NO. As the toddler made another run at my cart, I caught her eye with my own Deeply Honed Stinkeye, shook my head in the gravest manner possible, and said, "NO" with some finality. Her tiny face dropped a bit as she stared back at me, and she walked away from her cart and back to her lame-ass mother.

I finally got to checkout, where I noticed the Customer Service Agent was cringing and rolling her eyes at the ongoing outbursts from Cockatoo Boy. I looked at her, sympathetically, and said, "Just pretend he's some kind of exotic tropical bird from the zoo. It helps."

She burst out laughing, said "Oh my god, you're right!" and kept laughing as she finished checking me out, and I escaped out the sliding glass doors to the sweet, blissful sounds of the late-afternoon suburban parking lot.