Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Unwelcome Mat

Knittin' Kninja and I were up in Northeast last night, with the baby, and we decided to stop in for dinner at Nye's Polonaise. Nye's has three dining rooms: one immediately in front of the door, and two others separated by walls from the main dining rooms. The two back dining rooms are only used when the front dining room fills up; we've been there before when the bar area was absolutely packed, elbow to elbow, and the host was not seating anyone in the empty back dining rooms.

So we walked into the nearly empty main dining room around 5:00 pm -- 4 out of maybe 30 tables were in use -- and asked the hostess for a table for two. "Two and a half you mean?" she asked, leading us past an empty row of booths in the main dining room. She led us past an empty row of tables, another empty row of booths, and into the back dining room. In the back dining room she led us past another 12 to 15 empty tables, finally seating us in the far back corner, 50 feet and one wall away from any other customers.

Which got me to wondering, what exactly do people have against seeing a baby out in public? We asked for a booth in the front dining room, and got both a booth and a sick look from the hostess; when we left 90 minutes later, they still weren't seating people in the back dining rooms. We were eventually seated between a drunken couple having the worst date of all time and a table of middle aged couples who harassed the waitress relentlessly with hostile, "witty" comments. There is no possible way in which we could have been worse customers. And yet we run into this attitude on a semi-regular basis.

Public places are full of annoyances -- loud cellphone conversations, strangers who keep bumping you, cars that take up two parking spaces, guys who order for their dates -- and yet, for the most part, we accommodate these annoyances without comment. But when it comes to certain things -- a baby in a public place, no matter how quiet and well behaved -- people seem to feel a sense of self-righteousness that allows them to rationalize violating basic norms of civility.

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