LINCOLN, NE—Oblivious to the thoughts and looks directed toward her as she shopped for groceries, stopped by the post office, and ran several other errands with her three young children, single mother Karen Nichols, 29, was reportedly completely unaware that she was the focus of 984 separate judgments by strangers this afternoon.
According to reports, during the five hours in which Nichols was accompanied by her kids, Erik, Sadie, and James—aged 1, 2, and 4, respectively—to a variety of locations throughout the city, she was the subject of nearly a thousand negative assumptions about her financial situation, relative parenting capabilities, and general promiscuity.
“My God—that is just so sad,” thought 45-year-old local resident Rebecca Mueller, just one of 16 people in the local Stop and Shop parking lot who leveled a total of 29 judgments at Nichols as she struggled to secure her crying youngest child into a car seat. “If it’s this bad out in public, can you even imagine how terrible it must be at home?”
“Look at that—she doesn’t discipline them properly, and now it’s everyone else’s problem. That’s what happens when you’re not strict enough with your kids and just let them run totally wild.”
“I bet those grocery bags are just full of sugary cereal and other junk food,” Mueller continued, making a judgment that three other onlookers had arrived at separately. “That’s why she has absolutely no control over her kids.”
Mueller echoed the sentiments of the roughly 300 other witnesses who observed Nichols with her children throughout the day, 37 of whom felt that if Nichols couldn’t handle one child, she had no business having two more; 42 of whom decided she probably sat them down in front of the TV all day because she didn’t want to deal with them; and 68 of whom, after quickly arriving at the conclusion that Nichols was on welfare, couldn’t believe that’s where their tax dollars were going.
During a stop at a local drug store, Nichols was said to be the target of some 40 judgments within a single 15-second period when her eldest, James, began taking items off of the shelf in the toy aisle. Nichols’ sharp command for the child to return to her side quickly attracted the scorn of upward of a dozen onlookers, over half of whom immediately speculated that the evident lack of a positive male role model in the child’s life would eventually lead him down the road to drugs and criminal activity.
“Look at that—she doesn’t discipline them properly, and now it’s everyone else’s problem,” thought Henry Wilkins, 29, rolling his eyes at the scene as he waited in the checkout line. “That’s what happens when you’re not strict enough with your kids and just let them run totally wild.”
“Why is she being so hard on that poor kid?” 52-year-old Sandy Werner thought while witnessing the same incident. “Honestly, she could stand to be a lot more loving and patient with him, or else he’s going to end up as some delinquent.”
Werner, along with six other bystanders, reportedly went on to assume that this same kind of unnecessarily controlling behavior is more than likely precisely what drives away all the men in Nichols’ life.
According to sources, the single most concentrated number of judgments came during a late-day stopover at a local diner. Among dozens of other criticisms, Nichols’ momentary pause to respond to a text message from her mother while her children ate their meals conjured up nearly 75 variations on the idea that Nichols mindlessly spends her whole life staring at her phone, barely considering her children’s emotional needs.
“She doesn’t really look like she can afford to go out to dinner—it’s disgraceful, running up debt like that,” thought Glenda Frank, 71, who looked on skeptically as Sadie, the middle child, momentarily clambered up the back of the family’s booth before being replaced in her booster seat by Nichols. “It’s probably just as well, though; it’s not like those kids are ever getting into college, anyway.”
“I bet she doesn’t even read to them,” Frank added, beginning a line of speculation about the woman’s life that would result in a string of 19 separate judgments regarding Nichols’ level of educational attainment, employment status, temper, general ability to make responsible decisions, the cleanliness of her home, and whether her own neglected childhood was simply perpetuating itself in her current behavior toward her kids.
While exiting the diner, Nichols reportedly received her final judgment of the day from Terrance Leary, 46, who, assuming each of Nichols’ children was fathered by a different man, decided that Nichols would likely be open to getting a drink with him.