Overheard at the Mall


This is something that seriously qualifies for urban legend status and a Snopes entry all its own.  Really.  It really does.

Except that I was there, I really overheard it; and it actually had ME, the one person on Earth who can usually be counted on to run off her big mouth no matter what the situation and whether appropriate or not, to be stunned into utter silence.

The kids and I were sitting at an outside table at Panera with our dog Ike, enjoying the gorgeous pre-fall weather, and people watching.

Side note:  people watching is one of my most favorite activities in all the world.

The teenage girl at the table next to us and her companion were having a conversation about the military.  Not derogatory or anything, but about a "friend" of hers and his experiences.

There were a lot of "likes" and "you knows" (you know, it sounded like me) and voluminous hand gestures (looked like me talking, too).  The girl was discussing how her friend had been "done wrong" by his wife while he was deployed - which she called "drafted" to Iraq.  Yes, she called it that.  The sentence used was (I wrote it down in the magazine I was reading), "He was in the Army for, like, two years when they drafted him to Iraq."

However grating the misuse of the word drafted was, as I said before - she wasn't being derogatory about the military at all.  She even mentioned that her friend loved being a soldier.  So I let that pass.  It's not polite to butt into other people's conversations, anyway.

When my jaw actually dropped and I started staring was when she talked about how her friend was "working on his Purple Heart" while he was there.

Yes.  Working on his Purple Heart.  Direct quote.

I couldn't even muster enough inner fortitude to close my mouth.  My kids noticed my absolute shock, and had my husband not shown up forthwith, they might have called 911.

I have every feeling in the world that the girl truly had no bit of hostility towards the military or even the war in Iraq.  Her entire demeanor was one of respect for the soldier she was describing.   She probably even really had a friend there, although he may not have been as close to her as she was portraying to her lunch date.  When you're a close friend with someone serving, you generally pick up the correct use of at least some military terms!

But it did serve to remind me once again that our language is not universal! 

I'm glad that I was too stunned to react.  First, it was neither my conversation nor my business to butt in.  And second, I've noticed that I sometimes have a knee jerk reaction towards assuming the worst - and there is a "worst" to assume in many cases - but it took a bit of distance for me to realize that this girl meant nothing bad, she just didn't know the correct phrases to use.

But I had no idea that people didn't know what a draft really was!  Or that you don't "work toward" a Purple Heart!   

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