The video “Snack Attack” portrays (without words) an elderly woman inside a train station, who buys a packet of cookies at a vending machine, putting them in her purse. She then heads outside to sit on a bench and wait for her train, sitting next to a teenage boy. Picking up the packet of cookies next to her, along with her newspaper, she begins eating the cookies and reading the paper.
The woman then notices that the boy next to her, who is texting and listening to music, has his hand on the package of cookies. She is shocked and grabs the package, putting it on her lap. The boy then leans over and takes one of the cookies. The woman becomes furious, yelling at him. Earbuds in, he just smiles at her. At that point she tries, unsuccessfully, to grab a cookie out of his hand. He looks at her and breaks the cookie in half, offering her half and eating the other half. Incensed, she shows him the half cookie and crumbles it, just as her train is pulling in to the station.
The boy watches, puzzled, as she leaves in a huff. Climbing the steps to the train, the woman looks back and sees him eating some of the remaining crumbs off the bench. Still angry, she finds a seat on the train and, when she opens her purse to give the conductor her ticket, sees the package of cookies. She realizes that when she sat down on the bench, she took the boys’ packet of cookies, thinking they were her own.
The video raises questions about the assumptions we make about others based on age, the ethical dimensions of the way we communicate with people we do not know, and what is required of us when we realize we have wronged another person. I watched the video with a group of eight and nine-year-old children this week. Before we did so, I asked them each to describe in a word or two either children, teenagers, or adults, and we would all try to guess which group they were describing.
One child said, “Hardworking and energetic,” and another child guessed that this described adults, who, he remarked, “work the hardest.” In fact, the description was of children, and several of the children commented that they do think of children as more energetic than adults. Another said, “Weird,” and a couple of children guessed that this described teenagers, which was what the child intended. We talked about how children and adults can be weird too (and that what it means to be weird is also a philosophical issue!).
One of the children said that our opinions of children, teenagers, and adults change depending on in which group we belong. For example, she said, children can see adults and teens as annoying, but if you’re an adult, you might see the other two groups of people as annoying. We agreed that any of these groups could be characterized in ways — annoying, carefree, energetic, etc. — that could apply equally to people in the other groups.
After watching the video, we talked about why the woman became so angry at the teenager. Would she have had the same reaction if he had been an adult? A young child? Did the teenager react to her in the way he did because she was an old woman and he didn’t take her very seriously? Why do we treat people differently due to their ages?