Friday, November 18, 2005

Childfree Restaurants in Raleigh

A petition has made the news here in dear old Raleigh, North Carolina. In this drive for recognition, the “childfree or childless” are requesting child-free zones in local upscale restaurants because they are tired of having their expensive meals ruined by the unsupervised running, screaming, crying and general havoc-wreaking that children can cause. The petition is quick to point out that they have already ceded all fast-food restaurants to children. So far, about 850 people have signed up. I thought about it, but I don’t eat in upscale restaurants all that often. Besides, I would not want anyone to think that I hate children. No…noooooooo….

I am back in the memories of my day of horror on the ferry from Barcelona to Mallorca this past summer. It was a revelation when I realized that I only thought I had seen bad behavior in the past and then I found myself facing it in an enclosed area without any means to escape. Yes, for nearly five hours, I was trapped with a bevy of toddlers who were running like babies with arms outstretched to catch any stray bags, thighs or other appropriately unprotected and sensitive male-body parts. These kids were screaming, rolling, having hissy-fits, and worst of all, squatting suddenly with that far-away look on their face that tells you that an odor is not far behind. I tried so hard to be patient. Mummy and Da however, were not doing their jobs and I was really quite tempted to stand up in my seat à la Norma Ray and hold up a sign saying “Corral your kids!” I sought out crew members to file a complaint, but began to understand the circumstances when the only ones available had locked themselves behind steel barriers or were behind the bar shrugging when I tried to say “The niños are driving me loco!”

I had never seen anything like this display of unruliness. Two kids in particular ran into each other and bumped heads so often that their little noggins had raised great huge bruises by the time the ferry had docked. The parents seemed relieved that this was an enclosed area with locked doors. It was as if they knew that they could finally get the sleep that they had been missing for the past two years and that the rest of us would have no choice but to be their babysitters. It was, exact choice of words here, o-f-f-e-n-s-i-v-e.

If I had had a choice, I would have gone to another section of the boat to escape what was happening around me. There was literally no escape. There was no way to access the outside of the boat and there was no access to the other parts of the boat from our part of the cabin. It was one of those situations where I thought for the first thirty minutes or so that this soon would pass and the kids would wear themselves out, but that didn’t happen. From the beginning to the end of that trip, they used the aisle by my seat as a sort of floor-exercise pad. Every few minutes, one or more parents would come and pretend to want his or her child back and would grab them by the diapered crotch to tell them that they were bothering the other poor passengers. Within seconds, the kid would be back, screaming right into my left ear from point-blank range.

I took all I could stand and then started with pen and paper writing the blog entry that I typed up two days later in Mallorca and posted on my blog. This entry was described by a person whose opinion I admire as “full of vitriole” and I re-read my description of the the children on the boat only to succumb to my own shame at having described the urchins as they were. I ultimately deleted the entry, but I have the original, handwritten version here in case I ever need to whip it back out.

So, this petition-thing….I can understand. I won’t stop you if you choose to sign up.



Anonymous susan said...

and now imagine having those little devils in your classroom... *sigh*
but the big advantage is you CAN tell them off and you CAN throw them out. thank god for that.
there's no way i would've stayed quiet. for five hours?! nuh uh.

11/19/2005 09:43:00 AM  

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