|Now there's an idea....|
I was reminded of this on Sunday while having brunch at a sit-down venue in the Zona Rosa shopping complex. A large group was sharing a meal, and one couple's 3-year-old was running around the dining room, mostly unsupervised. The kid came dangerously close to tripping a couple of patrons as they carried their plates to their table and, in one instance, nearly knocked into a waitress who was hauling a fully loaded tray. The parents wanted to enjoy their own meal, so they kept a peripheral eye on the kid, but they didn't insist that the child sit at the table instead of running underfoot.
When I was a server, unsupervised children were a recurring nightmare. What if I was carrying a tray with hot coffee or heavy water glasses and accidentally dropped something on the child as he or she ran gleefully between tables? Several times I chided unobservant parents for their lack of responsibility and got hateful looks or even a stream of expletives for daring to suggest that they were creating a potential problem. "You should be watching where you're going," one mother snapped. "Little Caitlin is just having fun."
Fun? A restaurant is a place of business, not a playground. In my decades as a server, I never complained about picking up dozens of torn sugar packets, spilled food and serving utensils tossed on the ground, or sopping up melting ice cubes on an uncarpeted floor (a potential accident waiting to happen). But kids running wild around the dining room was something I simply would not stand for, and the rest of the staff usually felt the same way.
I'd grown up on the flip side of this equation: My father was in the liquor industry, and most of the restaurants we visited were his clients. Any behavior that was unacceptable -- crying, yelling, squabbling, getting out of our chairs -- was punishable by a very public spanking.
I'm not advocating that, by any stretch of the imagination. But it did put the fear of God into us, and it was one way to learn restaurant etiquette in a hurry.
My father glared at parents who let their offspring run loose in a dining room and once told a particularly neglectful couple, whose kid was grabbing silverware from other tables, that they were "the worst parents in American history." They were too horrified to respond, but our waitress seemed thrilled.
"All my other tables kept complaining to the manager," she told dad, "but he was afraid to say anything."
"Why?" my father asked.
"Because the child's grandfather owns this restaurant."
(Image via Flickr: Papa Razzi1)