Monday, September 03, 2007


Which is really all I wanted to do when I strolled into Big Daddy's Diner on Park Avenue. The menu looked affordable, and I was pretty darn tired after spending several hours wandering through Greenwich Village on a self-guided walking tour.

The hostess sat me at a booth wedged between one with four NYU girls plotting schedule and dorm designs and one with a couple of parents with a toddler. I didn't really think much about it. I was pooped and just wanted a burger. So I sat down, grateful for the air-conditioning and the chance to get off my feet.

All of a sudden, the toddler behind me let out an ear-piercing shriek. Trust me - it hurt me more than it hurt him. Well, no matter, I thought. I'm sure they're good parents and will settle the little guy down, sez I to myself. Um. Nope. More shrieking. Plus, grabbing at my hair. I pulled away several times, again thinking that the parents would shift him to the opposite side of the table. I was wrong a second time.

Just then, a couple of hipsters walked into Big Daddy's and headed for the rear of the restaurant. As they passed my booth, I heard the guy say, " . . . as far away from the screaming baby as we can get."

"Good move," I said to them as they passed.

Well, I sat there, working my sudoku, minding my own business, when all of a sudden a couple of french fries hit me in the head. OK. That did it. I grabbed my bag and Coke and headed for my waitress to let her know I was shifting seats to avoid the charming little tot. As I passed, the mother looked up and sarcastically said, "Byeeeee."

No problem. The waitress moved me to a booth next to the hipster couple, and I settled back in to my puzzle-working while I waited for my burger. No sooner had I made myself comfortable when the mother got up and stormed back to my table. She leaned over me and started a tirade about what a rude person I am. "He's just a one-year-old baby! He can throw food!" How dare I make a comment about her child. (I assumed she meant the "Good move" one, since that's all I said to her. Notice, she didn't light into the hipster couple, who were sitting there completely stunned at the goings-on.)

"Look, I moved. I'm out of the way. Go back to your booth," I responded, instead of popping her in the mouth, as she so richly deserved. Well, she wouldn't leave! Finally, my waitress came back and told her she couldn't bother other patrons (the hipster guy says, "Too late!") and asked the woman to return to her own booth. It took the waitress a couple of times to move her away from my table.

Well, I was feeling really weird by then. I do not like scenes at all, and this clueless parent put me right in the middle of a big one. I was getting all sorts of hipster sympathy and lots of empathetic head shakes from the other people in the place - who were fed up with the kid's behavior as well.

My food arrived, I went back to my sudoku, and started to relax. Both the waitress and the manager came by my table and apologized. Of course, being the Southern girl that I am, I was apologizing right back. "So sorry to cause a disturbance . . . ."

Finally the little family left and the restaurant became instantly cheerier. The hipster guy leaned over and said, "Gee I hope I didn't get you into trouble! Why didn't she come after me?" We were having a good laugh, when the father returned to the restaurant and headed for my table.

Oh, geez! He said he hadn't seen what happened (oh, really, sir? - you were holding the little dear as he threw fries and pulled my hair), but that I was really rude. Blah-blah-blah. I'm still confused over how my getting up and moving - without saying a word to the folks - was deemed rude. Perhaps I should have just stuck around for more shrieking and pelting!

Again, my waitress came over and asked the guy to leave. He said something rude to her and huffed out. And I'm still apologizing "I don't know what I did . . . ." The couple next to me was taking my side, as well. The manager came back and apologized a second time.

I went back to my burger. My waitress knelt down next to my table for yet another heart-felt apology. And because my meal was disturbed, there is no charge. Order dessert, as well, she says (I didn't). I protest, but she said the manager had already totalled out a zero charge for my bill. Wow! All I wanted was an uneventful little lunch, and what I got was high drama!

"You know the sad thing?" said the hipster. "They both left thinking that you were the rude one. They didn't learn a thing!"

I left the waitress a hefty tip. She stood up for me, not once, but twice. Big Daddy's is just that kind of place.


Chris said...

I really feel for you on this one, Mary. There are too many parents around who think their little cherubs are so, so cute and everybody on the planet should worship and adore them no matter how unacceptable their behaviour is. How on earth is that child going to learn good manners and respect for others with role models like that???

MaryB said...

Too right, Chris. I certainly don't blame the little feller, but the parents could use a strong lesson in good manners. When did things get so out of whack, with children ruling the roost?

Elsie said...

Mary, I've had other parents tell me that I'm too hard on my children -- I expect them to be polite (when did please and thank you become old fashioned?) and to behave. But one thing is for sure, I can pretty much take them anywhere without having to worry about them misbehaving. Guess that's one of the advantages of being an older mom.

Liz said...

That is unbelievable, Mary. What is the matter with these people?! but that sounds like a really good place to eat at other times!

MaryB said...

Elsie and Liz - I wonder if I would get arrested for carrying a water pistol around and squirting badly behaved kids? Nah. They'd probably enjoy it. And their parents would sue.