Meal and quite the show

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house (still), work in the same office (again) and somehow manage to cling to their sanity (barely). Older and wiser (she's wiser, he's just older), the Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on everyday issues, told from two different perspectives.

SHE SAID: The delivery was perfect. Voice pitched to just the right angry tenor. Facial muscles bunched in red frustration. Arms gesturing wildly. Each word spit hatefully out.

"Would. You. Get. Your. Children. Under. Control!"

The drama was excellent. Except, it wasn't a show. It was real. My mouth hasn't gaped that much since my first-grade teacher announced to the entire class that Callie Ilene Clark had peed her pants at school (but that's another story entirely).

Bob and I eat out way too much. At least once a day for lunch. Sometimes dinner too. Oh, and breakfast if my pregnant belly decides it needs a midmorning snack. I think we may be contributing significantly to the success of several downtown restaurants.

And as such frequent eat-outers, we have pretty high expectations of what the overall dining experience should be. Too often, I have commented on a squalling infant in a date-friendly, grown-up restaurant on a Friday night.

It bugs me. Flat out. And in past years, I've sworn never to take my baby to a date-friendly, grown-up restaurant on a weekend night. It's called consideration for couples who are trying to have a date-friendly, grown-up evening.

This week was different though. We weren't at a specifically date-friendly, grown-up restaurant on a Friday night. We were eating lunch at a cafe on a Tuesday at noon when two moms came in with three young children. The cafe wasn't crowded, just us, an older threesome and a lone diner or two sitting on the other side of the room.

But after several minutes of the kids crying, and occasionally running around the tables, one of the older threesome stood up, came within inches of the moms' faces and started screaming about disrupting the whole restaurant and getting their kids under control.

Funny how in screeching about the disruption the kids were making, he became an even bigger disruption himself.

The argument between the man (who, by the way, was ironically wearing a T-shirt that said: I'm not perfect) and the moms went on for a while, even after the owner was called out and attempted to settle the situation down.

By then of course, the kids were pretty much terrified and crying even louder.

Back at the newspaper office 30 minutes later, a report came over the police scanner that the man was still yelling at the women.

Had I rolled my eyes a few times at the kids' antics? Yeah. Is it ever appropriate to scream at someone -- especially a stranger with kids -- in a public place? Nuh-uh. But the scene did get me thinking more about when and where it's appropriate to take children, especially those so young you can't truly control their crying.

We'll see how I handle this parenting test in reality pretty soon, I guess.

And I already know how, as a mom, I'd have handled an angry guy screeching in my face.

HE SAID: My cute and pregnant wife summed the scene up rather nicely. She was right about the drama. I was half-expecting Mr. Yelling Man to point to the hidden camera behind the cash register and announce to everyone we were all part of the Cape Girardeau practical jokes show.

If it was inappropriate for a mom to bring in children who were fussy and wouldn't stay seated, it was much more stressful and interrupting to observe the old man who was fussy and wouldn't stay seated.

On the issue of children and restaurants, or anything annoying for that matter, I have a bit more tolerance than Callie. But that's only because I have the wonderful ability to tune things out.

It's not an ability, really; it's more of an accident. But if I'm biting into a really good sandwich, the screaming children tend to disappear into the background. I know subconsciously that it's noisy. But it's not distracting because my focus is elsewhere. This accidental ability has gotten me in more trouble with my wife than there's room to print.

I am aware, however, that not all people can tune things out like I can, which is why I don't think the man in the cafe was wrong in being upset. He was trying to have a glass of wine with a friend or two. He went in expecting a quiet atmosphere and his expectations weren't met.

Still, the guy gave that woman more than she deserved, and Callie and I were treated to a freak show that even I couldn't tune out.

Bob Miller is the Southeast Missourian's managing editor. When he isn't tuning the world out, he is married to the very aware and very hungry Callie Clark Miller. She is the managing editor of online and special publications. You can reach them at bmiller@semissourian.com or cmiller@semissourian.com.

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