Who ordered the screaming baby?

B706FE Baby crying. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

B706FE Baby crying. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

A patron walks into a restaurant for breakfast. Her family of three sit down and her toddler begins to wail. According to the patron they waited 30 minutes to be seated and then waited an additional 40 minutes before their food arrived. By this time her toddler is wailing for whatever reasons toddlers scream and carry on about.

Suddenly, the fed up and fired up restaurant owner arrives at the family’s table and begins to verbally assault the family. At some point she directs her profanity laden tirade at the toddler who stares back in shock.

The family eventually leave after eating their pancakes but the patron is so distressed by the rough treatment she does what any sensible person would do – tell the world about the poor service and behavior…on the restaurants Facebook page! To which the restaurant owner replies in yet another expletive loaded outburst.

Movie treatment?

No, unfortunately my friends, this is real life.

The patron, Tara Carson, is still talking about and the owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, Maine, one Darla Neugebauer is still fuming on social media and in interviews with the press about the incident. Both sides have supporters and detractors but there is no obvious winner in this case.

There are a lot of people who have had to sit in eateries, in a library, on an airplane, in the movies, on a bus with a screaming baby. Yes, I have had the temptation to tell the parents of that screaming baby to please do something about their shrieking child but I’ve somehow resisted the urge and felt better about not yelling at the parent and the baby. Why? Because I’ve been in that parents’ shoes before. I’ve been that parent holding a screaming baby in a public setting and felt completely hopeless to calm my child down under the glaring scrutiny of the public eye. I have learned empathy for parents who are obviously rattled and frustrated by a child who is content to pierce every ear drum in an establishment.

On the flip side, the restaurant owner has to consider her business as well as her other patrons. If her customers love coming to her eatery because it is a quiet spot that gives them a moment to relax, away from the hustle and bustle of life but arrive to find that their sausage keeps getting stuck in their gullet every time a baby screams and the owner does nothing about it, they’re more than likely to avoid the place unless the restaurant provides an off-site day care before his next visit.

Should the toddler’s parents have left before the owner intervened?

Was the owner out of line for yelling at the toddler?

In my experience, this scenario may have played out in one of the following ways if I was the parent:

Scenario 1: It’s been 15 minutes and I’m starving. Should we just take the baby to McDonald’s and let him play on the slide? I’ll pull the car around. I’d rather choke down a breakfast burrito than wait another minute.

Scenario 2: Hey! I’ve waited 30 minutes to be seated. Either you give me some free pancakes or this kid is going to scream until you throw in some steak and eggs to make my wait worthwhile.

Scenario 3: I’m taking this kid outside for a minute. I’m going to explain to him that life is not fair and everyone else has been waiting two hours for their stinkin’ pancakes. Either you stop crying and act like an altar boy while we our internal organs start to turn on themselves, or we’re going home for one of those terrible granola bars that have been aging in the cupboard and a free serving of whoop ass!

This scenario would have also played out in one of the following ways if I was the restaurant owner:

Scenario 1: Sir, ma’am – I really love kids but yours is really disrupting the atmosphere and giving the other patrons indigestion. Would you mind following me into my office? It will give you someplace away from the others to calm him down until your meal arrives.

Scenario 2: I’m sorry to say this but your baby is being very unruly. We would be happy to give you vouchers for a free meal if you would just kindly come back another day when your child is not so fussy.

Scenario 3: Hi, here is your food in take-out boxes. We hope you come back again soon. This meal is on the house as long as you leave in peace. If you want to stay, I’ll charge you double. Once for your meal, and again for the screaming baby.

There a number of ways that both of these parties could have diffused the situation. Instead, they did what I would have done when I was twelve and hit a ball into the neighbors’ window, shattering it: I tried to blame it on experience and then I tried to blame it on someone else. Then when no one believed me I started to yell at the world for persecuting me when I was clearly doing my best to avoid hitting the window. And then I wouldn’t let it go. I had to tell all my friends that it wasn’t my fault and I should not have been punished for something that was clearly the balls fault.

Okay, I oversimplify but you get my point. When we take offense we can make matters worse if we don’t handle the matter poorly. The parents could have done a better job at soothing their baby. Maybe bring some treats to tie him over, bring some toys, play some games or take him outside for some fresh air. Do something! The business owner could have been a little more sympathetic. She could have asked them kindly to leave or at the very least, inform them that their baby was upsetting her and the other patrons.

I don’t think rationally 90% of the time I’m in public because I get easily annoyed. Just ask my family. But when I’m getting annoyed I know that it’s time to put some distance between me and the irrational thoughts or else what happened at this restaurant will play out in exactly the way that these two parties handled it.

Stay calm my friends.

Posted in Blogging, Business, Community, Culture, Family, Fatherhood, Food, Health, Life, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are dress codes obsolete?

Dress-code-sampleMy second (real) job suited my teen inclinations perfectly – every day my work attire consisted of a lavalava (wraparound Polynesian sarong). That’s it! No shoes, no shirt, plenty of service to our visitors at the Polynesian Cultural Center. My attire (or lack thereof) presented an opportunity for me to teach visitors to the PCC about our unique Polynesian cultures while simultaneously saving me on laundry charges while I worked on my tan under the Hawaii sun. Certainly when tourists visit the PCC, they don’t want their experience and exposure to the native cultures of Polynesia to be introduced to them by a guy wearing a suit, bow tie and a pair of Oxfords…right?

My very first (real) job was also at the PCC – I worked as a food runner, stocking the buffet line at the Gateway Restaurant. That job required that I wear sensible shoes with good traction, a pair of black slacks and an aloha print, button down shirt. We also wore food service gloves and hair nets. It was my daily uniform. It was inhibiting, hideous and after a long night of bussing tables and running around with pans of food, my clothes were drenched in perspiration but it was necessary because no one wanted to be served food by a kid with sweaty, bare tanned skin…or do they?

Same company; two very different settings; two very distinct dress codes for very specific and practical reasons.

Throughout my professional career I have worked in companies where employees were subject to dress codes outlined by their management teams. In many cases the dress code was catered towards and conducive to the work environment and setting. Often these were very specific and periodically, the dress code was re-evaluated to reflect the times or to address a troubling trend that the company felt did not reflect the company culture.

Many people hate dress codes, mostly because dress codes are restrictive, it hampers their style, flair and creativity. It prevents hipsters from being hip. I get it, I mean, you’re talking to the guy who didn’t wear a shirt to work. But I’m of the opinion that dress codes are necessary, particularly in a professional environment where consumers are expecting certain behaviors from an establishment.

Sylvia Stoel is one of those people – she hates dress codes. As an employee of JCPenney, she was asked to go home and change because the shorts she was wearing did not conform to the companies dress policy, not because they were too revealing as many media outlets have reported. Stoel left that day and never returned. She said that she was fed up with dress codes that targeted women and that she was never told during orientation that shorts are not allowed.

A few things to note in this example –

1) JCPenney probably did not do enough to ensure that their employee’s, specifically new hires like Stoel, are aware of the dress code.

2) Stoel should have done more to educate herself about the dress code.

3) Because Stoel did not agree with the dress code, she did the right thing for her – she left the company.

4) Stoel wanted the world to know that she disagreed with the dress code because she took to social media to air her disapproval.

Whether we agree or disagree with dress codes, the truth is they will never go out of fashion – pun intended. Dress codes are in place, not to inhibit a companies employee’s but rather to enhance their workplace, cater to the needs of their customers, create and foster a company culture and in many instances, a dress code is in place for the safety and well-being of its clients and customers.

My advice to those like Stoel who are new to the workplace is this: if you want to wear shorts to work than you need to look at companies and work environments that allow shorts in the workplace. I worked for a very radical start up software company whose CEO allowed shorts because that’s all he wore, even in the winter. The employee’s loved it. I also worked for a software company where we were required to wear a button-down dress shirt and dress slacks but the CEO, a California surf nut, would often comment in company meetings that he wished we could wear shorts every day, but because we had regular visits to our office from current and potential clients, it was important to maintain a professional working environment.

If it makes any difference, I have my own reservations when it comes to dress codes but I understand the business logic that drives these policies. If there ever comes a time when I have to don a shirt and tie again, I may be looking for job opportunities at PPC all over again.

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Turn into the trouble

auto accident

I am blessed and grateful to have survived

A few years ago I had the audacity to think that I would be a good commercial truck driver. A friend of mine, on good faith, hired me and gave the opportunity to follow through on my ambition. Unfortunately, after several long, hard months of being mentored by my new found friend Hal and other company drivers, I still had not mastered the art of backing a large tractor and trailer. No matter what I did, I would miss the mark.

Hal was patient and gave me several useful pointers but the foreign concepts were an effort for me until one day, calm and unflappable, Hal said, “This is going to sound stupid but, when you’re backing up that trailer and you find yourself in trouble, you need to turn into the trouble.”

Taking that advice, as odd as it seemed at the time, I got better. And even though my career as a commercial truck driver came to an abrupt end I’ve found that the concepts I learned from Hal and others like him became beneficial in life.

This week, I was involved in a very serious automobile accident that I truly believe would have claimed my life if not for Hal’s advice and perhaps some divine intervention. I can’t say for sure that my reaction to the situation allowed me to walk away from this horrific event without a scratch, but I can say that it gave me a feeling of calm and control in the middle of a very harrowing ordeal.

As my car careened out of control on the highway my first thought was a natural one – panic. The second thought was confusing but I followed the prompting as I recalled Hal’s sage advice on a dusty road from a former life: turn into the trouble.

Time stood still as I faced the issue head on. Turning into the trouble helped me to avert any oncoming traffic. But even though my vehicle was completely destroyed, when the dust settled, I was out of any looming danger, no other vehicles besides mine and the semi that clipped me were involved and there were no major injuries.

Although it has been just two days since the accident, I’m coming to grips with the reality of knowing that there are things in my life I need to do right now in case I run out of lives. I’m dealing with the trauma the best way I know how – by turning into trouble and facing it head on.

Such is life; there are struggles both big and small. There are difficulties placed upon us or issues that arise in our life that make dealing with them problematic and depressing. But I have found that when life throws us challenges, the only way to deal with them honestly and completely is to face them head on. Turn into the trouble, solve it and resolve it and you will find peace.

payson temple 2

Enjoying time with our youth

Be grateful for every moment and for every day you breathe. Be cautious with the words you use and extremely watchful with your actions. And be active in pursuing the things that matter most. Whatever goals you have in life, hound them down with tenacity and passion. If your relationships are in turmoil, mend them, love your loved ones harder and release yourself from the relationships that are ruining your chances of being the best person you can be.

I am a firm believer that we all have something specific to do in life. I know that I have not done what I have been born to do. So once again I find myself doing what my friend taught me – I’m turning into the trouble, seeking answers and steeling myself to be the best me.

I am grateful and truly blessed to be alive!

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