Thursday, August 31, 2006

Smelling the Roses

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was in Chicago and went with my sister, brother-in-law and 17 month-old nephew to the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar in Skokie for an early dinner. Anyone who has been to this place in the middle of the day knows that it is a loud place - and that the wings are really good. There are televisions mounted everywhere and the place resembles a sports bar more than a restaurant. The place was loud enough that I practically had to read my sister's lips when she spoke to me from the seat to my left.

That being said, looking around at the other diners that afternoon, I couldn't help but notice the number of children at this place with their parents. For me, this is very odd. My husband and I do not have any children and usually, when we go to dinner, there are no children in the restaurant at which we are dining. I actually thought that it was very nice that all of these people brought their families out for dinner and didn't keep them at home every night. I even commented to my sister and brother-in-law when we were seated that I thought that there were a lot of little kids at the restaurant. My sister remarked that it was because it was a loud place and that the kids' random noises wouldn't draw too much attention. All of the tables but one in our section had small children at them.

The place was generally filled with people in good moods, just out to catch dinner with their families. Upon our entry, as I was checking out the other diners' tables while the others were getting my nephew situated, I couldn't help but notice that the table directly behind me wasn't as happy a table as all of the others. There were two small children at the table, each about under the age of 6. The mother was at the far end of the table, facing in my direction and the father had his back to me. All I know was that they were having a disagreement at that table in front of their children and the tones were uncomfortable. She looked upset with him. I don't know what she was saying, because it was so loud in there, but her gestures and posture led me to think that she was telling him off in front of the kids. I averted my eyes from that table VERY quickly, hoping that they hadn't noticed that I had. For most of the rest of that meal, my attention was devoted solely to my family and the food.

Toward the end of our meal, I think my nephew started to get a little restless in his chair. Who can blame the kid? He's 17 months old and he was finished with his meal but yet was strapped to a chair. For some unknown reason, he decided to let out a scream. I guess the whole screaming thing had just started that week with him. Frankly, I thought that his screaming pretty much blended in with the cacophony in that place. The place was just that loud. My sister and brother-in-law tried to get him to pipe down. He let out another scream. I thought it was kind of cute -- it was kind of amusing really. The kid discovered his pipes and wanted to use them at that moment, while his parents were trying to settle him down. Every kid I know has gone through this. I was sure that my nephew couldn't see me as there was a tall condiment tray in between us, and I started to laugh. When he let out the next scream, I laughed even harder because it sounded like a squeal of delight. The people at the table behind my brother-in-law thought that it was cute and were giggling and watching him. The waitstaff seemed to think it was cute as well. A couple of them had told us that they had toddlers at home. My nephew probably let out four or five of these outbursts in a row. From my vantage point, all I saw were my sister and brother-in-law trying to get my nephew to quiet down and waitstaff and people at other tables either not noticing at all or oohing and aahing at what a funny little toddler we had at our table.

Then, the man at the table behind me who had been arguing in front of his children turned around and said to me in an angry tone, "You DO realize that you have to make her stop doing that instead of laughing about it." I looked over my shoulder at him and realized what a pathetic man he really was. His family looked miserable there. I had previously only seen his back, and when faced with his front, felt a tad revolted. He was so rigid and angry and yet was so nerdy-looking. All I said back to him in that moment was, "Yeah -- I feel sorry for your kids." He turned around and said nothing more to us. I really wanted to lay into him but I wasn't about to do that in front of his kids. I guess I had more respect for his children than either he or his wife did. I don't really feel the need to put unhappy people down because they're already there.

My nephew screamed a couple more times - and I laughed when he did - and then his parents were able to settle him down. Suddenly, my nephew was a minor celebrity with the neighboring tables. A couple of folks stopped by on their way out and said a very friendly goodbye to him. A passing woman had asked his age and said "hello." The angry man and his family left the restaurant about ten minutes after the screaming had ended. They were eating their dinners when we had arrived at the restaurant, so I know that they weren't leaving on our account. His kids stopped a few feet from our table and just stared. They didn't glare - they blankly stared. I didn't see any emotion in his kids at all -- they weren't happy, they weren't sad, they weren't angry -- the kids were in a fog. Just then, I was very glad that I hadn't given their father a piece of my mind. His kids had been through enough at dinner.

The whole thing still bothers me when I think about it even though it was weeks ago. I think it bothers me because I didn't get to tell that man exactly what I thought of him. Aside from the obvious verbal barrage starting with "No but I DO realize that you are an a**hole" and "who do you think you are to tell me what I HAVE to do," I wanted to shake him and tell him that he and his wife were jerks for arguing in front of their kids in public or in private. Then I wanted to tell him that I felt sorry for his kids because he obviously didn't take the time to enjoy all of the moments of their short childhoods and must run his home like a military operation. Why shouldn't I laugh when my nephew does something that is funny? We weren't at church or at a five-star restaurant. We were at a loud restaurant/bar with lots of other loud kids dining there. Nobody else there seemed too upset by the episode. I imagine that if one of his kids did something like that, he'd probably be terse with them or threaten them rather than try to reason with them. I would tell him that I felt very sorry for him because he obviously is not enjoying his life and the things that should be good in it. It seemed as though the merriment coming from our table was too much for the man at the unhappy, tension-filled table and that is why he said anything at all. He should know that not everyone has to be as serious and unhappy as he and his family are. If he was trying to bring us down or make me enjoy the scene less, my subsequent laughter had to have told him that he failed in that. If folks just tried to appreciate the small things that happen every day, rather than cruise through every day looking toward the end, they'd probably be happier. Lastly, I wanted to inform the angry man that my nephew is a HE and not a SHE -- Though, unlike the angry man, my nephew has hair, he is, in fact a boy -- Some guys have hair, you know. (I know that last bit was just mean - but it felt good.)

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