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