As I got LE out of her stroller, and was walking her around to the entrance, an older woman (maybe around 70) passing by started talking to me. I don't remember exactly how the conversation started, but the conversation went something like this:
Her: I don't know why anyone would bring their child there.
Her: That's the worst thing they could have done with that area. I don't know why anyone would bring their child there, with all the news these days about the flu.
Me: That's the best thing they could have done with that area. And doctors and pharmacies have been giving out flu shots like they were candy.
Her: Well, the only people in there are ethnics, and they don't have anywhere to go [for that].
And with that, she walked off pretty speedily in the opposite direction as I turned towards the entrance to the play area.
If I hadn't had a 2-year-old in tow who wanted to play now, I might've loudly read the lady the riot act on her racism right then and there, but she was quickly gone into the crowds. Naturally, I later thought of all sorts of rejoinders I could have or should have said, but there just wasn't the opportunity. (Given the chance, the next thing I probably would have said--smart or not--would have been, "Lady, look around you--poor people don't shop at Woodfield.")
As I was watching LE play while waiting for kateshort to catch up to us, this conversation made me much more aware of the differences in the people around me than I usually am when we go there. I saw many Hispanic families, to be sure, but also a lot of (Asian) Indian, Middle Eastern, East Asian, Southeast Asian, and Eastern European families, as well as the usual complement of Western/Northern/Southern European families. I have no idea how many different languages I heard being spoken on that playground while we were there, but I probably would've needed two hands to count them.
But other than for my temporarily heightened sensitivity, none of that really mattered. What mattered was that families with small(er) children had somewhere to go to get out of the house and run around on a rainy day (an impulse anyone who's had kids will instantly recognize), that everyone was having fun, and that kids of all sorts of different backgrounds were playing together (or at least in the same vicinity, for the smallest kids) with no concern for skin color, language, or anything like that.
But I still wanted to repeatedly whack that lady with a clue-by-four.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf
(P.S. Yes, flu is a real concern, and yes, H1N1 is currently spreading faster than the so-far-available vaccination supply can generate a good level of herd immunity, but a playground like that is no more or less a breeding ground for diseases than a school, daycare, or outdoor playground is, and is actually less of one than the entire rest of the mall is, as that particular play area is cleaned/sanitized twice a day, every day. Also, perhaps it's more for the peace of mind than as a practical public health measure, but they do have hand sanitizers at the entrance/exit to the play area for all those who are concerned.)