Diner Life! by Seeman via morgueFile

Diner Life! by Seeman via morgueFile

There’s a restaurant that we love going to, but it has a sign on the door, stating that parents should keep their children seated [under control] for the sake of other patrons.  It’s a nice restaurant.  Good food.  Fancy food.  Thai food.  We like going there.  But we can only go there at night because we know that, during the day, we’d bring Simon, and he would not stay in his seat, and he would not care about the other patrons.  But…cell phones and noisy drunks are allowed.

Now, I’m not trying to say anything bad about this restaurant.  Simon wouldn’t like their food, anyway, and I believe that restaurants can choose to avoid loud, noisy children – even if we have and love kids, we all need to get away sooner or later.

So instead of going to a restaurant like that when we feel the urge to eat out, we go to a decidedly family (and cheap or cheap-ish) restaurant like Denny’s.

Ah, Denny’s!  Home of the $2/$4/$6 menu, shot glasses of syrup, and friers using the fat from their opening day!

Not that I’m complaining.  I like Denny’s.  My husband likes Denny’s.  And, most importantly, Simon likes Denny’s.

When we go there, though, we start thinking about how to minimize Simon’s impact on tables around us.  We try to keep him from touching people in the next booth.  We remind him to use his inside voice.  We distract him with drawing and writing.  Anything we can think of to avoid the dreaded stares that, of course, I always want to respond to by shouting, “It’s Denny’s!  It’s not a 5-star restaurant!  It’s not a library!”  (But I don’t.)  (I just stare back.)

We went to Denny’s on New Year’s Day for a late lunch and special treat for Simon since I had to fly out the next day for a residency for school.

At first, we were seated by ourselves – empty booths on both sides – and a large, loud table full of a big family nearby.  All going swimmingly.  Until they sat an older couple in the booth behind us.  Simon had been sitting with his arm over the booth, which we convinced him to move, but since our food hadn’t arrived yet, he was busily repeating an episode of some TV show – but just his favorite scene, of course, completely out of context, and over and over and over again like a record with a scratch in it.

I was waiting for one of them to complain.  They just had the right vibe of “how dare a child be a child in public!” (yeah, you know that vibe, right?).  But they didn’t.  And then it happened.  The guy’s cell phone went off.

“HELLO? HELLO!  YES, WE’RE AT DENNY’S…”

And I’m sure there was more to the conversation, but I tuned it out, the same way I tune out loud children or annoying noise. 

But it made me wonder.  Which is worse – people who talk loudly on cell phones in public or echolalia?

In both cases, you’re only hearing one side of a conversation.  In both cases, you may have absolutely no idea what’s actually going on.  And in both cases, the person talking is oblivious (or mostly oblivious) to the effect he/she is having on those in the vicinity.

There is one difference, though.  With echolalia, it’s not on purpose.  It may not even be controllable.  It just happens.  No rudeness or annoyance intended.

So stop giving nasty looks to the kid reciting Blue’s Clues and hold those looks for the loud cell phone users or drunks.  Cause they deserve it a whole lot more.

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