Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Che macello! (What a mess!)

My ears are still ringing, and I don't even hear that well.

Tonight, my daughter and I headed out to a popular Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. It's one of those places where you can always get a nice hand-tossed pizza or a tasty plate of piping hot ziti. It's a predictable little cafe, nothing fancy, just good food prepared well. And it's also popular with families. Sometimes, TOO popular.

A few minutes after we were seated this evening, I noticed that two or three children were playing around the video games in a back room of the restaurant, adjacent to the restrooms. Ordinarily, this would not have attracted my attention, but tonight, the natives seemed particularly restless. Within minutes, several of these munchkins were jockeying for position at the video games and attacking with ferocity a large candy dispenser, which was loaded with colorful, perfect-for-choking sized balls of gum. Mind you, the parents were sitting not twenty feet away, enjoying their beer and wine while the children ignored their food and ran around the restaurant. I'm guessing that they must have been on their second or third drinks by this time.

As the situation escalated, several of us in the immediate area became nervous when a group of the kids barricaded a couple of the others in the ladies' room. The trapped victims began to kick the bathroom door, and after a few minutes, a waiter walked over to the kids and asked them to stop. By this time, a sense of general pandemonium had ensued, except around another table, where a lady sat with her two boys, both of whom were extremely well-behaved in the midst of it all.

There were a few moments of relative quiet, and then it began in earnest. Two of the crazy kids (there were six in total) had come from a far table at the other end of the restaurant, but four were from the table next to ours. They all began to shove each other, and at one point, a girl of about seven years of age from the next table kicked a little boy, who had fallen to the ground, in the back. By this time, our fellow diners were visibly perturbed. Two of us said something to the waiter, who again approached the kids and reprimanded them.

Finally, after all this, the totally oblivious "mother" at the table next to ours, home of the four hellions, said to the waiter, and I quote, "Oh...are they causing trouble back there?" It was all we could do not to burst out laughing. These couples had been sitting there the entire time, while their ill-mannered children not only spoiled all our dinners, but in effect, put themselves in danger of being seriously injured. To see parents so unaware of the situation at hand was downright sad.

I can only imagine what the home dinner table must be like for these children: a veritable running track surrounding the table, bruises and other injuries sustained while trying to down a slice of cold pizza, and parents literally living outside it all. And I say I can only imagine, because our own children were always interested in the food when we went to a restaurant...they would never dream of disturbing the other diners, because they knew that such behavior would at the very least nix the next "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" or "Barney" episode.

I know it's a novel concept, but children will behave given just the slightest bit of guidance.

And, as Forrest Gump was so fond of saying, "That's all I have to say about that."