I paused in the doorway, deciding whether or not to make a scene. The managers were on the far side of the restaurant, chatting to each other, not paying us any mind.
“Let’s just go,” my wife Kara said, ushering our two sons to the door.
Twenty minutes earlier, I’d asked one of the managers if they had a highchair for our 18-month-old son, Zack.
“No,” she said.
It was the way she said “no” that really stuck in my craw, assuming that a craw is a body part that can be mentioned in a family publication. (Otherwise, it stuck in my clavicle.)
It wasn’t an apologetic, “No, high chairs are on back order right now,” or “No, our high chair is off getting sanded and refinished after an especially zesty meatball-eating incident.” It was just, “No, we don’t care what you do with your stinky kid, but it sure won’t be putting him in his own seat.”
Imagine eating a sandwich in an exotic outdoor café. A hungry monkey jumps into your lap. Every time you raise your sandwich to your mouth, the monkey screeches and bats at it, sending a shower of lettuce and cheese raining down upon its head. This is what it’s like trying to eat with an 18-month-old in your lap, except you don’t have the luxury of shooing him away. Also, you’re sitting in a Subway, not an exotic café, and you have to balance your child with one hand while trying to unhinge your jaw like a snake so that you can just cram the entire six inches of sandwich art into your mouth in one shot. While chewing, you will try to fork some meatball pieces into your offspring’s mouth, which he will smack onto your lap.
One could argue that perhaps this restaurant preferred not to have children dine there, a perfectly fine stance for a restaurant to take. Some establishments would rather cater to patrons who are less likely to leave their lunch as a pile of drooly wreckage on the floor. I get that. But the kids’ menu and accompanying trinket display seemed to suggest that this Subway welcomed children and their parents’ wallets, it just didn’t want them to stay there.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have said anything. I’ve spent my life avoiding confrontation with strangers. As I get older and more crotchety, though, I’m starting to warm up to the idea. A few months ago, I yelled at an old lady, and it felt great.
This lady wildly gesticulated and shook her head as I rolled through an intersection in a strip mall. She had a stop sign, I didn’t. (I have since verified, and I hope she has, too.)
“I don’t have a stop sign!” I yelled out my open window.
“Yes, you do!” she yelled back.
I stopped the car, turned and pointed to the spot where a stop sign would have been, had there been one.
“No, I don’t!” I replied.
“Yes, you do!” she said.
“Babe,” my wife Kara said, putting her hand on my knee. But I’d already thought of the perfect comeback, and I couldn’t refrain from using it.
“No, I don’t!” I yelled, wittily. Kara and I continued on to the grocery store, the adrenaline and righteous indignation coursing through my veins. I can see how people get hooked on being unpleasant. It gives you way more of a rush than being a good person.
Still holding Zack’s hand as he headed for the door, I turned back toward the managers of the Subway.
“It would be really helpful for people with children if you guys got a high chair,” I called.
“Excuse me?” he asked, looking either shocked or annoyed, or both.
“We’d be more likely to come back if you guys got a high chair,” I said, shrugging, as we exited.
Then I turned my attention to the parking lot, to see if anyone else needed a good talking to.
You can chew out Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.