It’s small, crowded, and often noisy late at nights, but one tiny restaurant in my home town is unlike any other I’ve ever been to. Filled to bursting with Hollywood memorabilia from days long gone by, it has borne witness to celebrations of personal milestones, both great and small, and overheard conversations that I can’t even remember. Its bustling aisles were the scene a first date that turned into a marriage (I always comment when we pass the table where we ate), and my husband and I visited it at least once a week for years after our wedding. It’s just that kind of place.
By the time our first child was born we were visiting less frequently, but it was still a great place to be. We avoided the crowds on Halloween and St. Pats, and we knew that weekends meant longer waits for tables and we understood that the months when college kids filled the booths were also not ideal. But the comforting familiarity and moderate noise level made us feel it was a great place to take a toddler whose table manners had not yet evolved to the point of eating in many other sit-down restaurants.
It holds a piece of my heart.
Or it did…
Several years ago progress came and change occurred. Much of what made it a cool place to be was taken off the walls. The pictures and artifacts were replaced with flat screen televisions, displaying the news and the action of any game occurring in real time. It got louder. But still we went.
There’s a table in the corner, the big, round one that used to hold all of my high school and college friends. It’s now the site of dinners with one of my best friends and her family. All of our kids, hers and mine, can fit around this table where we gather when our calendars allows us to meet on a Tuesday night (because that is when kids eat free). Here we make new memories. Even without the pictures and the autographs, we make due with the television that hangs over us, deal with the other patrons staring over our heads at the game instead of at the dates they came to eat with, and enjoy our food and conversation. Usually…
Then came the night of great miscalculation.
Without thinking about the sports schedule that I skip over in the guide on my personal television, my family packed into our round table in the corner, under the offending flat screen, to celebrate the last night that our out-of-state friend would be staying with us. It was a Tuedsay, and we had always made the pilgrimage to this particular sandwich shop when she was in town. As we gathered my three children, well behaved and hungry, into their seats, I noticed that things seemed a little more unsettled that usual. Think of it as a second mommy sense. Something was just a little off.
We placed our orders, received our drinks, and enjoyed our conversation over the louder than normal din of other voices as we watched the kids color the jungle scene on their paper menus. And then it happened. Directly to my left, at the table beside us and directly behind one of my twins, a college kid with a sloshing beer stood to full height and let out an ear piercing bellow… over the head of one of my children. She looked terrified, his date looked annoyed, and I’m sure I looked pissed.
Angrily looking for the source of his frustration, I saw in brilliant color what was the end to my enjoyable evening… The World Cup.
Admittedly, I did bring my children to eat in a restaurant, alas, that is filled with televisions on a night that I should have avoided. However, as our meal arrived he grew louder and louder. He moaned each time the opposing team, who even knows which one, scored a goal, and screamed in jubilation when his team made a good shot. My six year-old attempted to join in with his behavior, for which she was quietly reprimanded. After all, we were in a restaurant and not a sports bar (where I never would have taken my kids), or a barn for that matter. She was upset, of course, because she wanted to act like the grown man-child was acting. The twins grew more and more uncertain of their surroundings, this making it hard for them to eat, and the overgrown ape’s poor date slid a little farther into her seat each time his vociferous cries erupted.
I began to shoot daggers from my eyes as my husband looked around for our waiter to voice a complaint. We found him. He was standing beside the now purple man, who at this point was standing in the aisle beside his table, discussing the game. (I assume it takes too much energy to continue jumping up and down every time a player does something interesting.) This went on for fifteen minutes.
Finally the couple left. Apparently the date had announced that she was leaving, with or without him, so he chose to go. By that point, we were waiting for our check, which the waiter had to go find because he had forgotten we were one of his tables.
As we left, bellies full of poorly digesting food, I was left to ponder the following: Why were my small children better behaved than an adult, and how are we, as parents, expected to teach our kids how to be respectful and kind when the people they see around them often can’t do it? Why does becoming more modern often kill all that is good about a tradition? And why should I have to ask to be allowed to enjoy a meal that I am paying for? Pardon me, but I’d like to enjoy my indulgence and one of my few nights out of the house with my, for once, well behaved children, my husband, and a life-long friend.
We haven’t been back since…