Hey, Mac, you might try being more PC

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In the midst of taking photos at about a half-dozen events and venues Saturday, I managed to sneak in a little break while awaiting my last stop of the day at the Taste of Putnam County.

That's when I got a real taste of PC -- as in political correctness -- or the lack thereof.

So I'm sitting in a local restaurant, sipping an iced tea and monitoring Twitter, email and my cellphone when a couple of cute kids bounce out to a nearby table and climb onto adjoining stools to await mom and dad and their lunch.

That's when I hear one of the older guys at the next booth -- quite reminiscent of old Statler and Waldorf in the Muppets' balcony -- start talking to the kids.

The bigger guy takes one look at the cute little pigtailed princess, colorfully coordinated in pink shirt and shoes, and opens his mouth without engaging his brain.

"If you let me cut off one of those pigtails," he offers as jokingly innocent as your grandpa, "I'll buy you an ice cream cone."

Whoa, let's replay that ...

This middle-aged random restaurant visitor has just told a girl who can't be older than four or five, that he'd like to chop off one of her pigtails in exchange for giving her some ice cream.

Geez. Holy cow. And OMG.

While realizing he had no idea what he just said could seriously be taken quite differently, I'm thinking that remark falls just short of the feared old "Want some candy, little girl?" come-on.

Any second I expect the "Criminal Minds" gang to jump out from behind the drink carousel. Or that the SWAT team will burst through the door posthaste. Cue the "Orange is the New Black" intro ...

But our guy goes on to tease the kids even further, asking the little girl what her sister's name is.

"That's my brother," she responds with an indignant cuteness while defying that age-old parental advice "don't talk to strangers."

Oh sure, I've uttered my share of non-PC things over the years. Had times where I should've bitten my own tongue. But never out in public where those words could be taken the wrong way and come back to haunt me.

After all, in today's world, where the slightest little hint of bullying or harassment or child abuse can get you in major-league trouble, we're all in need of a filter at times.

I sit dumbfounded and return to my iced tea and cellphone, wanting to crawl under the table to assure one and all that I am not involved.

Moments later, mom and dad emerge none the wiser, carrying a tray brimming with burgers and fries, and all is right with the world. A happy meal for all.

The kids hop down and follow across the restaurant to another table. And next time I spot the little girl, I do a double-take for her pigtails have merged into one ponytail.

Strange. I know mom and dad could not have heard what was said moments earlier.

Let's just call it parental instinct.

And that's politically correct all the time.