Today an old lady pinched pH during a concert.

Seriously. In a church. During a concert. And then the nasty woman hissed at me to take pH and leave.

To back up a little:

In my life, I have probably spent more time in churches (or in suing churches) than you. Probably. If you have me beat, let’s be friends because we have stories to swap.

kH doesn’t like my (only occasionally admitted) lifelong dream to live in a converted church (we are atheists, after all), and prefers my alternative lifelong dream to live in a sailing yacht. Who can blame him? But churches are one of those places where I feel comfortable, which is not something most people say. For me, they were a home away from home, no matter where we lived. Once, while tourists, my siblings and I wandered through an open church door on a hot weekday–a church none of us had ever attended–and sat down in pews to continue our conversation, because…well. Why wouldn’t we? (That it was the correct denomination and that it was same architectural style of other churches we had spent lots of time in probably had something to do with that.)

I take pH to weekly concerts at an old church. The Old Church, actually (it was once Presbyterian and is the oldest Portland church on its original foundation, but no longer a church). The concerts are free, and busloads of senior citizens are dumped around 11:50 and picked up around 1. There is a vase for collections but as far as I can tell, pH and I are the only ones who put more than a buck at a time into it.

The concerts are all over the board. Brass bands. Piano recitals. Duos. Trios. Quartets. Classical. Avant-garde. pH has proven surprisingly tolerant, although the first time she heard really crazy jazz–at my old employer’s office–she put her hands on her ears and yelled, “MAKE IT STOP.” (She was 2. In fairness, I was 36 and had the same reaction. I like dissonance to resolve at some point.)

We go to the concerts because I want her to have the experience of live classical music, up close (and she wants to sit close to center in the front, left pew, just like her forebears–bizarrely enough). I want her to see how pianists sit, how they hold their hands. Plus, I like live music…but not enough to stay up late–and I haven’t been able to afford my opera subscription since 2010, anyway.  And how to sit quietly for an hour in pew while maintaining a relative degree of attention is an executive skill worth developing.

And so we have become regulars, along with the seniors and a fat-guy-who-eats-loudly-and-opens-crinkly-chip-bags-and-belches-and-then-snores. The amazing belcher was in prime form today, not contenting himself with burping through the applause. No, sir: he gave us a loud burp during a pianissimo portion–I smelled chicken from two pews and an aisle away. Barbecue chicken, as it turned out.  

I am usually the second youngest person there, with pH the youngest. Last time, a man only a few years older than I made a point of complimenting pH’s behavior. (Note to people without kids: that goes so far with parents you have no idea. We would hug you if it were socially acceptable.)

Today was not pH’s finest outing. The music was not engaging her and I had forgotten my earrings that are made out of gears that actually turn (they are good for at least 15 minutes of distraction). She fidgeted a little bit. Whatever. She’s a kid. It’s a free concert. She was quiet and leaned against me and daydreamed.

Until the old lady on her other side pinched her and hissed at me to take pH and leave.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

I wasn’t even sure it had happened until I saw the look on pH’s face. She was freaked and didn’t know what to do. (FFS, we don’t spank her. She thinks I’m yelling when I clip my words, and that’s enough for her to burst into tears.) The woman behind the nasty woman confirmed with a nod that it had happened.

My thoughts went like this:

  • is pH hurt?
  • that’s an intentional tort;
  • probably misdemeanor battery;
  • maybe she’s suffering from dementia and I should call social services;
  • maybe she’s not suffering from dementia and I should call social services anyway;
  • we’re in the front pew so I can’t strangle her without 100 witnesses;
  • it’s a really good thing kH isn’t here;
  • how does defense of others work in this state?
  • if it’s defense of others and I’m small but she’s elderly, does that mean we’re on equal footing?
  • if I claim self-defense (or defense of others) since she’s coming from a nursing home, there will be a small army of other elderly women who will be happy to furnish otherwise inadmissible character-of-the-victim evidence;
  • if it’s defense of others, do I risk a charge of elder abuse (because I know victims over the age of–I think–65 are treated differently)?
  • holy shit, I don’t know jack about criminal law.
  • do I know anyone in the DA’s office right now?

Because this is the internet age, I conspicuously took her picture with my iPhone, and then I stood and moved so that I sat next to her and pH was on the aisle, across from belching man (win-win). And I did my best to calm myself down because the adrenaline involved in a threat to my child is many levels of magnitude stronger than a threat to myself. I was afraid my heart would explode.

I consoled myself by radiating anger. It’s my superpower. Normally I won’t dwell on slights or rudeness because it takes too much energy…but she put her hand on my kid and I was still contemplating all the ways I could accidentally-on-purpose trip, hit, or otherwise incapacitate her.

A few minutes later, the mean old lady tried to show me on the program where we were, as if I didn’t know 1) how to count movements or 2) adagio from presto.

I glared.

As soon as the concert ended–I mean as soon as the pianist stood up to bow, not after the applause had faded–that woman stood and RAN down to a close side door only the performers use and was gone. She didn’t even remember her program. Then a lady behind us explained how rude she’d been on several occasions to her and she was happy I’d taken her picture and she complimented me on pH’s behavior.

All this pH bounced. It took me a long time to get my heart rate back to normal. I was a little disappointed not to have gotten to do or say–whatever it was I was going to do or say, which of course I hadn’t worked out yet.

When the fog lifted, I remembered I have a collection of ways I entertained myself during all those hours in churches by pissing off the worst committee malcontents…but never in ways that could be viewed as deliberate or would detrimentally affect my parents.

Oh…right. Those skills. You’d think I’d have used them in law practice, and I did, but usually in court filings, depositions, and correspondence. Not out in the wild.

Today batty old lady freaked my child out. Next week, I will return the favor ever-so-politely. There’s Schadenfreude, and then there’s Schadenfreude.