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.
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.