op-ed to the New York Times


I used to enjoy an evening's repast at the local restaurants; children then were well behaved and a joy to be around. I guess this can be attributed to parents who, when confronted with inappropriate behavior, would lean over and ask the little darling that age-old parent question. "Would you like to have your pants pulled down, and that butt blistered, right here in front of all these people?" Today, alas, this would earn you a two-hundred-year jail sentence. I don't know the exact date that Society as we know it fell totally apart. For me, it was in the early seventies, as my bride and I were enjoying a steak dinner -- the kind where the juice is all over the plate and it is still sizzling, the baked potato heaped with sour.but.I digress. In walked Mr. and Ms. Flower 'hyphen' Child accompanied by their two-year-old twins, Moonbeam and Starlight. The waitress seated them at an adjacent table; my bride and I smiled at the children and their proud parents. Little did we suspect the torment and chaos that this spawn of all that is unholy was about to inflict.

Little Moonbeam was beside herself because they had not gone to MacDonalds and wanted to be sure every patron was informed of her parent's lack of understanding. Little Starlight, feeling Moonbeam has grabbed the dinner limelight, threw her water on the floor. My bride and I were no longer smiling. With great restraint, I resisted the urge to scream, "control those little heathens", mostly because of that look my bride gave me. You know the one, the "embarrass me and your conjugal rights are suspended" glare. Thirty-two years ago that was a real threat.I withstood the barrage of mashed potatoes, and the screaming. It was listening to these parents using the new- age principles, and trying to explain logically to their 'heavenly' children why they needed to improve their behavior.

That pushed me over the edge. Come on! What two-year-old is intimidated by logic! With all due courtesy, I turned to Ms. Flower 'hyphen' Child and calmly explained how she would have greater success with a few swats to the hind parts. At least that is how I remembered it; my bride tells a different version. But! We all know how women tend to exaggerate the littlest things.

That night I took a blood oath that I would never set foot in a restaurant again. In spite of all good intentions, I relented the other night when my bride insisted that I take her to dinner or she would demand her conjugal rights. Today, that is a real threat! We visited a local eatery and settled down for a sizzling steak where the juices are.you get the idea. In walks a young woman with two children in tow. They had barely seated themselves when her cell phone rang. After unavoidably listening to the conversation, I realized it was Moonbeam! She was all grown up now, and her new purpose in life was to aggravate people with her loud and inane cell phone conversations. Because of other conversation in the room, she had to talk louder.

This made no sense to me until I finally figured out she was talking to Starlight, apparently upsetting my fellow curmudgeons in another restaurant somewhere! Several times she paused to take "a call on the other line". Once she had dispensed with the twenty-seven calls on the other line, she resumed her conversation with Starlight. We were regaled, in four-part harmony, with all the details of her visit to the Doctor and the most detailed minutia of her "female problems".

I assumed if I talked louder, it might cause her to hang up. Nope! I was up against a Pro; she did the hair-flip thing and inserted her index finger in the unused ear, and at the same time tsk, tsked my boorish behavior. I was obviously incapable of understanding the life and death import of her phone call. So much for the loud gambit... I had to admit that it took a lot of acquired skill to plug her ear, talk, and wave off the waiter and never miss a beat. Finally, the battery gods smiled and her phone died a deserved death.

We were just concluding our meal when I hatched an evil plan over coffee. Moonbeam's meal had just arrived when I pulled out my imaginary phone and doing my best Forrest Gump impression, I proceeded: "Doctor, I have this big thing oozing green stuff on my butt-tox", and after ten minutes of horrid details, "and that's all I have to say about that".

I know what awaits me when we get home, but it was worth it! I hate eating out!

Fred Hambrecht

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Thank you Dan, as the author, it is one of our favorite pieces.

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