A Not So Happy Meal

05 Nov

True story.  Two preschoolers walk into a restaurant and make a beeline for two gentlemen finishing their dinner.  The smaller of the foursome proceed in pawing and crawling on the larger.  The men have an unmistakably startled look upon their faces.  Their eyes dart frantically as their minds seem to race.  After a few moments a sleepwalking nanny appears, and in her wake a texting mother and a bombastic grandmother.  The nanny and matriarchs continue to ignore the children and the two men make haste through their coffee and check.  No doubt these women have sexual predator lists bookmarked on their handhelds, and Amber alerts on their Twitter feed.  But I digress.  The men fled and the disengaged family proceeded (not without much chaos, fuss, and noise) to their table.

This would be a good place to point out some key “setting” elements of the tale.  This occurred in a seafood restaurant.  Not the red plastic baskets filled with deep-fried seafood morsels type of seafood restaurant either.  Candlelight, white tablecloths, extensive champagne list, raw bar, kind of seafood restaurant.  Also of note is the time.  It was past 8:00 P.M.

Not surprisingly the behavior of the children, and the obliviousness of the adults, did not change in a sitting position.  The girl child brayed (continuously) and the boy child climbed on the table.  The behavior worsened as the time crept steadily past their bedtime.  The restaurant management did nothing.  Considering there is no child’s menu, perhaps the profit margin was simply too enticing

Any good story, especially one that hovers near horror, should have a moral.  What we learn here is that 1) 8:00 PM is not the adult hour any longer and 2) cost and formality are no longer a litmus for anything.  I am hesitant to move my dining time to a more adult hour, (say midnight?) knowing full well what obstacle courses I will encounter.  The later it gets, the drunker the diners get.  Stop into any restaurant around 11:00 or 12:00 and the volume will blow you back out the door.  Want to regain your composure in the ladies’ room?  Good luck elbowing past the women administering, what I can only imagine are homeopathic remedies, to each other.  Of course there is a gift-with-purchase entertainment quality to late night dining.  With a dining companion who’s game, an entire evening can be made of playing “who in this room is being compensated for their time?” or “how many people can we spot who have only moved their food around and have not lifted the fork.”  But by midnight, I’m usually too hungry or tired to be much good at the games.

May I suggest something wildly radical?  What if the nanny in this story took the children home to feed them and put them to bed.  How about if adults recognized that their actions affect others and being a parent by definition is a whole lot of sacrifice.  And since we’re on the subject, how about business owners, theatre managers and the like stop hiding in the broom closet.  What on earth is so scary about stating; “This is an adult establishment” or “If your children become disruptive we will ask you to leave.”  I can’t imagine restaurant owners, who are only as good as their restaurant’s reputation, really relish their lovely establishment resembling a chuck-e-cheese.  No business owner wants to hear the complaints of customers either.  Could it be that (gasp) no one is complaining?  If the music is too loud, do you not complain?  If the air conditioning too arctic, do you not complain?  If two free-range preschoolers are crawling on you, do you not complain and point out that you were going to order a couple of glasses of cognac, but now you’d just like the check?  Maybe we are all complicit.  Maybe we need to (baby) step it up just a bit and Occupy Adulthood.

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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Childhood


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