Instead of calling the cops on rowdy toddlers, how about arresting the loud guy at the bar?

Petula Dvorak
Columnist September 26, 2013

We were trying to enjoy our green bean crispers with spicy dip at the Applebee’s in Northern Virginia, but the dude was distracting.

Shouts. Guffaws. Obscenities. He’d switch from cursing at the football game on the big screen to sucking down his beer. And then he made a really loud phone call that everyone in the restaurant could hear.

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. View Archive

Would someone call the cops on him? My kids are trying to read and play Lego! I swear. These adults sometimes. Isn’t there anyone around to control him?

Our sweet waitress agreed that the bar area is usually the loudest part of the restaurant.

“It can get a little rowdy,” she said. But she has never called the police for backup at Applebee’s. And she couldn’t believe that her colleagues in Katy, Tex., did that this month, when the sheriff was called to remove a family with two rowdy toddlers.

According to the CBS affiliate in Houston, Eli Gau and his family were having dinner at Applebee’s on Sept. 15, and his sons, ages 3 and 1, were running amok.

“They’re kind of active,” Gau told the TV station. “They act like children. They’re not adults.”

The manager told the family to leave and called the Harris County sheriff’s office. A deputy met the family outside and told them to not to come back or they’d be charged with trespassing.

Harsh. Afterward, a spokesman for Applebee’s apologized for the incident and invited the family to come back to the restaurant to dine for free. Not surprisingly, Gau said he had no interest in another outing to the chain.

I wondered whether I’d find heinous toddlers at the Applebee’s in Falls Church. Our waitress said she’s had some little monsters at her tables. What waitress hasn’t?

“Once there was a family with two little kids, and they were throwing food at each other. And a piece of hamburger landed on someone else’s table,” she said, cringing. “The manager came and asked the couple to calm their children down. But I can’t imagine calling the police for that.”

Ah yes, kids in public places. The topic always gets people’s blood boiling.

Remember when a family was kicked off a JetBlue flight last year when their 2-year-old threw a monster tantrum just before takeoff?

Here’s what I want to know: Where was this flight crew in August when the passengers on my flight to California had to listen to the bridezilla in 23D and her wedding drama for 3,000 miles?

Last week, the child meltdown heard around the country came after a talk radio host in Lexington, Ky., witnessed some cad dissing a mom whose kid was throwing a tantrum in a grocery store.

“Dear parents,” Matt Walsh wrote in a blog post that went viral, “you need to control your kids. Sincerely, non-parents.”

Now, it’s the Applebee’s confrontation that has pitted folks who fist-pumped the swift action to get rid of the brats against the parents who were horrified that anyone would do such a thing to the little angels.

Here’s the thing. People are annoying. If the loud dude at the bar, the chatty chick in the booth next to you or the kid arguing with his mom over mac and cheese are clouding the personal Valhalla you believe you’re entitled to in a plastic-menu restaurant, then please stay home.

If you don’t have kids, I’m sorry, but you once were a kid, and I’m sure you weren’t perfect. And if your kids are grown, congratulations. Please don’t think you did it any better than us. You forget. You have to in order to go on with life.

And parents, we should be embarrassed and spring into Defcon-1 when our children reach that horrid level of screaming, tantruming and kvetching in a restaurant. Apologize profusely to those around you and take your kid outside. If food flies? Buy the splattered patron a drink.

When sitting for two hours while the grandparents slurp mimosas because they are “taking us out to brunch” wasn’t my toddlers’ idea of fun, I wolfed down a bite or two, and we went outside to chase bugs in the dirt or walk up and down the sidewalk. We did this at scores of restaurants in dozens of cities. I hated it then.

But forcing your screaming children on a restaurant gives all of us a bad name, and, trust me, your kids are screaming because they are miserable.

If they’re old enough (they start at 6 months now, right?), give them the iPad, let them play Cut the Rope or Dessert Maker on your phone for a few minutes. It won’t kill them, and it saves all of us. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. I know you just. Want. A minute. To. Eat. ONE MINUTE!

But it goes by fast, and soon, you’ll be asking them to get their nose out of the Percy Jackson book and engage with the waiter. They won’t want to talk to anyone else at the restaurant. Or to you.

And you’ll have to explain to them that no, you can’t do anything about the loud dude at the bar who is annoying them.

Twitter: @petulad

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.

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