Two and a half years ago, I took the kids into the city to see the Myer Christmas windows.
They were excited. Well, my then three-year-old daughter was – at eight months old, my son didn’t really care about our destination. He was just happy to be out and about.
I dragged the kids with me to run some errands first, then walked through Royal Arcade toward Myer. We passed Koko Black, except we didn’t pass it at all. How can you walk past Koko Black? You can’t. You have to get a hot chocolate. You just have to.
We went in, and I ordered drinks. We went back out to sit at one of the tables in the Arcade. My son was getting antsy so I got him out of the pram and started to lift him towards my lap.
This coincided with the waiter bringing our drinks. Drinks that my son, who was not yet crawling and was generally content to sit on my lap, immediately lunged for. Drinks that ended up all over my son and my lap.
STEAMING HOT drinks that ended up all over my son and my lap.
Cue madness. There was screaming. There were bottles of water poured onto my son’s stomach, and all too quickly emptied. There was much waving and wringing of hands, much umming and aahing, a definitive “NO” from a member of staff when I asked if I could access their kitchen to get my son under cold, running water, and a subsequent “I don’t know” when I asked where the nearest public toilets were.
Then my son was whisked out of my arms by another member of staff. “The public toilets are this way!” she yelled back at me as she bolted around the corner, aiming for a set of stairs. I grabbed my daughter, ran after her, turned a few more corners and arrived to see her holding my son under the cold running water. I called 000 and asked for an ambulance while she attempted to soothe him.
THANK YOU NUMBER ONE (PART ONE): Thank you to the kind member of staff (manager?) at Koko Black who grabbed my son and got him under cold running water within minutes of him being burnt. I would not have known which way the bathrooms were, let alone gotten there so quickly with my daughter also in tow.
While we were in the bathroom, a door across the hallway opened and a cleaner appeared. (I was half in and half out of the bathroom, trying to keep a clear phone signal.) He saw what was going on, offered help, and then went back into the room. He emerged with some packages, unwrapped them, and handed me what appeared to be jumpers, suggesting I use them as blankets to carry my now naked son back up to the Arcade when the ambulance arrived.
THANK YOU NUMBER TWO: Thank you to the lovely cleaner who offered assistance. You looked like you wanted to do more, but what you did was incredibly thoughtful, and more than enough. Your refusal of my offer to pay for or return the jumpers – your uniform, I later realised – meant there was one less thing on my ‘must remember’ list when the ambulance arrived.
The ambulance arrived. Two paramedics came to look at my son. They asked questions. They said exactly the right things. “He’ll be okay, but we’ll take you to the hospital so they can advise a course of action.” “We’ll grab the pram – we’ve folded down a hundred of these things.” They asked how long he’d been under running water, then took over the burn management and guided us to the ambulance. “Why don’t you try feeding him? That might calm him down.” They presented my daughter with a teddy bear, and suggested she cuddle the teddy just like I was cuddling her brother.
THANK YOU NUMBER THREE (AND FOUR): Thank you to the paramedics who attended us that day. All in a day’s work, you might say, but your matter-of-fact manner was exactly what I needed. It was on the ambulance ride that you both calmed me enough to realise my little man was no longer screaming at the top of his lungs, and was going to be fine.
While in the ambulance, one of the paramedics handed me a bag. It had a Koko Black logo, and it contained four bottles of water, four bottles of juice, a packet of Koko Black chocolates and a post-it note with a hastily scrawled name and number.
THANK YOU NUMBER ONE (PART TWO): Thank you (again) to the kind staff member at Koko Black, who kept us nourished during the wait at the hospital. Another example of unprompted kindness and forethought.
Things went well at the hospital, or as well as can be expected when you arrive at a children’s hospital in an ambulance. There are doctors and nurses to thank, but I’m going to skip forward at this point. (I’m also going to skip past the point, hours later, when I finally got home and pulled off my jeans, only for it to feel like I was pulling off my own skin. Whoops. What they say about adrenaline is real. Cue belated hospital visit for me.)
I called the manager a few days later to thank her for her assistance on the day, and for the goodie bag. She said it was not a problem, and asked for my details to complete an incident report. I gave them to her, thinking nothing of it.
About a week later, a package arrived from Koko Black. It included a get well card signed by the staff, a selection of chocolates, three vouchers for Koko Black hot chocolates, and a copy of Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett.
Why the book? Somehow, amid all that chaos – or perhaps later in the day, while talking to those who had served us – the same member of staff who helped us on the day had discovered that we were on our way to view the Myer windows, and had guessed – correctly – that we never made it.
And that year, the windows were based on the book Gingerbread Friends.
THANK YOU NUMBER ONE (PART THREE): Thank you, oh thank you, Koko Black staff member. Again again. You sent us one of the most thoughtful presents we’ve ever received. The kids adore the book (present tense intentional – it’s still a favourite!) and it did help soften the blow for my daughter, who had been looking forward to seeing the windows.
The moral of the story: if your child is going to lunge at a tray of steaming hot drinks, make sure he does it somewhere within sight of a bathroom and with easy ambulance access.
Failing that, make sure you’re somewhere the staff will drop anything and everything to assist you, and show that they still care long after you’ve been an incredibly inconvenient customer deterrent outside their store.
(Oh, and rest assured our son is fine. By early 2014, you’d never have known anything had happened. The only physical proof that this ever happened is actually a small round mark on my leg. And, of course, the book.)
When have you benefited from the kindness of strangers? Or spent your afternoon in a pair of jeans that reeked of hot chocolate and tea?
(You might also like to read The kindness of strangers – part one.)