That comment is still eating at me. We were at the airport, just off a five hour flight, waiting for our baggage at the carousel. Everyone was tired. Oli was swinging his legs in the stroller, red eyed and hungry. Kristi was trying to entertain him with a plastic spoon. I was getting a bottle for him. Dom was at the luggage rail, waiting for the conveyor belt to start moving. Like all the other passengers we had our empty trolley parked up, hoping to be the first ones to put it to use. Very few, or more precisely, no-one, was sharing Max's excitement for the baggage reclaim area; the strange noises, the flashing lights, the carousel's clunky engineering, the trolley wheels. Max was enthusiastic, but he wasn't out of control. I admit, Max was in my peripheral vision, but here's what happened: Our excited 2 year old climbed onto the front of our trolley. Our trolley. He wasn't pushing it, he was actually just trying to sit down on it. As he climbed up, it moved. It moved about 6 inches and knocked a man's shin. I heard a sniper-like 'Fuck, you should control your kids.' The man wasn't actually addressing me, just swearing in my direction. I was too tired to deal with aggression, so I ignored him. He limped around for a while, occasionally massaging his shin, sucking in air and swearing under his breath. I made a kind of 'whoops' face to myself and told Max to stay near me and not sit on the trolley. The man's wife was standing next to us. She didn't say anything or look in my direction. I glanced over at Kristi and we exchanged a look that said 'that-couldn't-have-hurt'. I reassure myself that you can't get much speed up on an airport trolley in 6 inches. The man's bags come through and the couple move off. I assume that's the end of it. A good five minutes later we too have our bags and we head for the elevator. That's when the man ambushes us.
'You should control your kids.' he says again.
He's blocking our path, not shouting but jutting his chin out and frowning like he wants to start a fight. I'm holding Max's hand tight. Kristi is pushing Oli's stroller. Dom puts his hand across me as if we are bracing for impact in a car crash. Dom hasn't got a clue what the man's talking about or why he's starting with us. He was battling suitcases while all the shin-knocking was taking place.
'He pushed a trolley right into my fucking leg. I've got an ACL.' His voice is rising.
All I was thinking was, 'what's an ACL? Did he say ACL? ACM? ATM? How was anyone to know he had one in his leg.' Dom, incredibly, knows all about ACLs, the knee's anterior cruciate ligament. He's also got a quicker tongue than me and tells the man to mind his language in front of a 2 year old.
'Mind my fucking language? She didn't even fucking apologise.' He's indicating me.
At this point I start walking, Max in tow. I can see a sign for the elevator.
Dom has the trolley loaded up with 4 bags, a car seat and a cot and is probably thinking it inconceivable that it could be pushed at all, let alone with any precision into this man's leg.
'Go away.' Dom says.
To which, amazingly, this man shouts 'WHAT did you just say to me?' As if he's just been threatened with an expletive-loaded insult.
'I said go away and leave my family alone.'
With a bit of rocking back and forth, Dom finally gets the trolley going and he catches me up and rounds into the elevator. With Kristi and Oli quick behind, we press any and all the buttons to try and get away from the scene we just experienced. Perhaps the man had a point, but he blew it when he started swearing at us. I should have said as much - why do we always think of the wise cracks too late? Way to late. We were leaving the long-term parking lot before I managed to put my mind to the biting words I needed. Cue one of my favourite quotes: 'Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.' Let's just say if it happens again, I might, by then, have come up with the right response.