You know how when you are at a restaurant or a coffee shop or some other public place, and some parents are letting their kids run amok, and disturb the other patrons, disrupt the flow of traffic, trip people, and generally create a nuisance? Oblivious to all the stares and dirty looks being thrown their way, and in the general direction of their kids?
Actually I could have just stopped with “oblivious”, I suppose.
Anyways, don’t you just hate that?
Well, that happened to me yesterday at Starbucks, where I was sitting attempting to grade finals. And a lady next to me was trying to study. And everywhere around me people were either keeping to themselves, or attemping to have quiet, polite conversation. Including the two men sitting in the corner, whose two children were running amok.
And I don’t just mean a little amok. I mean a whole lot amok. The two children, perhaps ages 2 and 4 or so, were literally running from one end of the room to the other, cutting right across the path where people walk in the front door, and get into line. Back and forth they ran, weaving in and out of people carrying scalding hot drinks, glass cups, and annoyed looks.
At one point they had a long knitted scarf stretched between them as they ran around, the better to trip people with.
And through it all, the two men ignored them, looking up only occasionally to smile benevolently at their cute little tykes and then go back to their conversation.
I’m sure they appreciated how the entire population of Starbucks was watching their children for them.
I went over to the manager, whom I know (let’s face it, we know all the people who work at all of the Starbucks within a 10 mile radius), and asked her what the policy was when a patron’s children are stampeding. She lamented how there was no policy, and I said that I was myself about ready to go over to the parents and say something.
I should take a moment to tell you that I hate confrontation. Yeah, I know, kinda odd for a lawyer – indeed a rather successful litigator at one time, but there you have it. I hate confrontation. Well, unless I’m billing hourly for it.
But I just couldn’t bear it any more, and somebody had to do something. But how to say something without it being confrontational? Hey, I’m a parent, and I understand that it does no good to get a parent defensive about their child.
Then suddenly, I hit on the perfect thing to say. At least, I think so. In fact it brought a grin to my lips just thinking of saying it to them, if only I could pull it off.
And I did.
I sauntered over to the two oblivious ones, leaned in really close, and very sweetly asked:
“Excuse me, but is one of you responsible for these two children?”
“I am,” answered one of the men, readily.
I leaned in even closer to him, and in a knowing stage whisper tinged with just the right amount of irony, smirked:
“It’s kinda hard to tell.”
“Is one of you responsible for these children? Oh, you are? Because it’s kind of hard to tell.”
Oh, I crack myself up!
And the thing is, it worked. They weren’t offended, they apologized, and took their kids outside to let them run around.
Feel free to use this. Just think of me when you do.