Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A New Low

I should have seen it coming …

This evening, Pat and I had dinner in a very nice restaurant, the sort of place that families go to celebrate very special occasions, or where couples go when they want a really nice, intimate evening. In other words, it was a place where the atmosphere was key to the specialness of the place. We were dining on the patio, near a fountain that was trickling melodically rather than gushing, with elm trees overhead from which the occasional seed drifted down. The wind was very light, just enough to move the air a little and bring in the scent of whatever greenery was growing in the nearby fields.

Two tables away from us was a party of four adults and a little girl, probably about 4 or 5 years old. I have already expounded on the necessity for parents to make sure that, especially in very nice restaurants, small children not be permitted to make a nuisance of themselves for the other diners. Children should not be permitted to run about the restaurant at will, or to make excessive noise, and if the parents can’t (or won’t) keep the children under control, then the children should be left with a babysitter. But the solution these parents came up with was appalling – instead of leaving the girl at home or requiring her to learn proper public behavior (which, contrary to popular belief, a 4-year-old is perfectly capable of accomplishing), these parents brought a portable DVD player for the kid to watch. Sure, they kept the volume down, so there wasn’t too much obfuscation of the sounds of the night birds in the trees overhead. But still, that technological intrusion was hugely distracting.

What kind of lesson is that kid learning? That her need for her speed of entertainment surpasses other people’s need for tranquility? That she should be entertained at all times and never learn to entertain herself through such activities as reading? That she doesn’t need to learn the art of social interaction with friends and family at a restaurant, because she can watch her own private entertainment? I imagine her parents are congratulating themselves for keeping her from becoming a nuisance to other diners, but are they teaching her ways to interact with the rest of the world in constructive ways? And even if the DVD player keeps the kid from being a nuisance, the player itself is a huge nuisance. The noise, even at very low volume, and the flashing, variable light just ruin any semblance of a romantic atmosphere.

The restaurant does have a posted policy; on a sign at the entrance, patrons are requested to turn off cell phones and pagers. But portable DVD players are apparently too new, so rules about them haven’t been formulated yet. I hope that this restaurant and others will create rules that don’t name specific technologies, but instead use generic terms such as “electronic communication devices” so as to encompass any future developments in technology. I would also hope that parents stop looking for electronic babysitters and instead start teaching their kids how to interact with the world in constructive ways.

Yeah, right.

5 Comments:

Blogger Tillerman said...

Amazing. And I suppose if one of your party had quietly requested the other group to turn off the kid's DVD player they would have thought that YOU were the ones out of order.

Another recent annoyance I have observed even in very nice restaurants is diners who take flash photos of every dish put in front of them. I suspect some of them are writing food blogs. But even so.

Wed May 03, 10:07:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A group of sailors and I once had lunch with someone who began working on their blog. This person stuck their "electronic computer device" in front of their favorite "Rat Packers" and ignored them throughout the course the meal. The computer's power cord also caused the waiter to trip. The owner had to ask this person to remove the cord from the walking area, and remind them they were in a restaurant. This completely ruined any chance of romantic vibes in the restaurant. But then, a meal with these crazy cat-rat packers could hardly be considered romantic. "But still, that technological intrusion was hugely distracting". Sounds like this 4-year old kid is well on their way to having a blog. I think, perhaps, the club champion might still be devastated from being "beaten-by-the-blog"!

Wed May 03, 10:35:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

Ouch!

Wed May 03, 05:26:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Of course, there is a big difference between a noisy, casual place that welcomes computers and has free wireless Internet access, and a very nice, intimate restaurant. And on that particular occasion, the person with the computer wasn't blogging; she was just dealing with email, and she had two students who had crises that needed attention. Matters were made worse by a prank pulled by a certain teenager who had swapped the computer's good battery pack for an old one that wouldn't hold a charge, forcing the use of the electric cord and subsequent banishment to a corner away from everybody else. But she did get back to the group as soon as she could.

Wed May 03, 11:26:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Jerry said...

Someone off in a corner with a laptop open is hardly an intrusion on the others in a nice restaurant. At least, I'd like to think so, because that person in the corner is me. I would substitute "electronic communication device" (which a DVD player is not) with "sound-producing device". That would include loud-ringing telephones.

If you want to put your kid on electronic crack, give them headphones and goggles, so their destruction does not intrude in my pleasant meal.

Word verification: jszeib - What Joseph said when he hit his thumb with a hammer.

Thu May 04, 05:15:00 PM MDT  

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