March 28, 2008

I Don't Know The Solution But I Want The Problem To Go Away

So, I go to lunch the other day with the partners in the firm and we meet up with some other professional contacts out in the community. We're talking about the local commercial real estate market. At the table next to us in the restaurant is a woman who has brought her young child with her to lunch. I'm interested in what one of our companions, who is somewhat soft-spoken, has to say.

"Well, interest rates just came down, but really only the --"


"-- are responding to it."

"Really?" says one of the partners. "Not even the bigger-box stores?"

"Well, they have their own financing structures. If you think about it --"


"-- really can't afford it."

"Ssssh!" says the mother of the infant, who then goes back to eating her lunch with her friend.

"Well, what about build-outs? Are the light commericals coming in yet?"

"Not as fast as we'd thought a few months ago. What we --"



"-- and that's affecting the residential market, too."

What, am I the only person in the restaurant who has noticed this? That can't possibly be right.

"Well, it's a reciprocal effect, right? If the commercial growth stalls out, then --"


"Ssh!" (Because that worked so well the last time.)

"-- just be a question of how far prices have to fall."


"Sssh! Be quiet!"

"True, like everything else, it --"



"-- equilibrium."

"Yeah. So we keep on seeing your signs all over the place. Well, your company's signs; do you --"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" (Not much of a vocabulary for this kid just yet.)


"-- a big help!"

I recall at this point an old episode of M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye has nightmarish flashbacks about being trapped in a broken-down bus with some villagers. If the NKVD finds Americans in the bus, they'll kill everyone on board. But, one of the villagers has a chicken that keeps on squawking. Hawkeye tells her to shut the damn chicken up, and then wakes up from his nightmare to realize that it wasn't a chicken, it was her own baby, and she smothered it to death to keep it from crying and attracting the enemy soldiers.

And as the little kid at the next table keeps on emitting these loud, piercing cries that drown out the otherwise intelligent conversation going on, I'm really seeing the upside to Hawkeye's request.

All of which is kind of unfair of me. This woman was out and about and you can't leave a young kid unattended, so she probably had no other option but to take her child with her. And the kid is young enough that his impulse control is not yet developed and he's learning how to vocalize. Making loud noises is fun and it gets you attention, so the kid doesn't see a downside to turning the volume up to eleven and letting loose whenever he feels like it. That's just what it is to be around a one-year-old or however old he was.

So while I was really irritated by the child-noise, I tried my best to be patient with it. The mother's ineffectual "Ssh" response to the piercing shrieks was actually more annoying to me than the shrieks themselves. It was like she either didn't care that everyone in the restaurant was treated to her son's imitation of a banshee's mating call, or she thought that treating him like a teenager who already knew better than to behave that was was ever going to do anything.

I don't know what the solution is. Certainly the woman has as much right as anyone else to go to the restaurant and get a meal. Certainly she has the right to bring her kid with her and there's no real controlling the kid. But I didn't ask for that kid. I came to the restaurant hoping for some interesting conversation and I missed a good portion of what was said because of how the kid was acting. No matter how blamelessly the situation evolved, I was quite frustrated.

While I'll concede that sometimes little kids are really really cute, I have so little tolerance for that sort of behavior by them that I'm afraid I'd do what the Korean woman did in the TV show if I had to be around it for very long. Hell, I couldn't handle a cat whining and meowing at me for the hour or so I've been writing tonight and wound up tossing a dog-toy at her to get her to shut up. Ye Gods, how would I handle having a kid around all the time without winding up in prison?

Not all parents are like this one. Many actively work to keep their kids' behavior within tolerable limits while out and about. But so many do not. I wish there was more stuff like this out there

1 comment:

Michael Reynolds said...

You get up, take the kid out of the restaurant, and don't come back until the kid is quiet. Been there. More than once. And that's how I handled it.