The drive down was nothing special -- mostly highway, cars chugging along -- until we hit Morgan Hill, and then things started to slow. By the time we reached Gilroy we were inchworms, easing forward one sigh at a time. This suited me fine. Saturday was clear, music filled the car, and the boys read quietly in the backseat. We passed a burst of sunflowers.
The Gilroy Garlic Festival greeted us first through our noses: scents sweet, pervasive, unmistakable. We paid our cash, and as we wound our way toward the heart of the fairgrounds, we funneled first through an alley of sponsors and vendors -- Foster Farms chicken, Lay's potato chips, a company retrofitting bathtubs with some kind of insert. Their connection to garlic was tenuous to non-existent, but that's just the way these things go.
We wandered around. People happy. Bands played. Everyone ate. Garlic ice cream, garlic sausage, garlic pasta, garlic bread. Lines were long, with no complaints.
The children's area teemed with energy, and three-year-olds ran around, sporting mini Home Depot aprons. Someone must have been handing them out.
We passed a Scope station. I grabbed a sample and tucked it in my purse.
And then we came to a shady area with a canopy and benches. People were sitting, rapt and silent, facing a small stage. Adults, kids, all quiet. Ronald McDonald held court, and the crowd paid attention.
And my pulse quickened, and I felt, I don't know, mad. It was instinctive, and immediate. I didn't even hear what he was saying -- he could have been discussing the two Bay Area Ronald McDonald houses -- but he made my body tense, and stressed.
I grabbed my camera. Can you believe this? That he's here? Can you believe this?
And then, seconds later, shame washed over me.
For judging strangers. And assuming I knew better. And assuming I was better. For not even hearing what was being said, and thinking in my bones that it was wrong.
It shocked me that this symbol, this clown, mattered to me at all, and in a way so different from how it mattered to everyone else. That I judged this character, and this company, so much more harshly than I judged the bathtub retrofitter, and Home Depot, and Lay's Potato Chips, and Scope. That my reaction was that swift, and physical.
I'm struggling with what it means. I know all about fast food, and obesity, and legislation to stop chains from putting toys in kids' meals. I support these moves. I write about these moves. I know kids recognize logos, and make dietary choices based on who markets to them. I like Jamie Oliver. Long live the food revolution!
But what I don't know, what is bugging with right now, is this:
Who am I to judge these people? Any of them?
Who am I to judge?