Your Children, My Smoking

Posted: August 15, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Observations, You & Yours
Tags: , , , , , ,

I was originally going to call this piece “Your Brats, My Smoking”, but then I thought, ‘Why start out with negativity? There is plenty of time and space for that as this piece progresses.’

Come to think of it “brats” would be a more accurate title, as brats and the parents of brats are the issue and not children. Parents are a huge part of the issue. Before any parents have a grand mal flip out and start telling me about how difficult parenting is and how I wouldn’t fare any better, save your breath. I have a fair idea about how difficult children are and that’s why I have taken pains to avoid having any. This is why in my 25 years of being sexually active I have yet to slip one past the goalie.

Recently, a couple of restaurants have made the high profile and oft debated decision to not allow children under a certain age to dine at their establishments. This has been met with debate from both sides. I’m sure one can easily guess where I stand after reading the first few lines of this article. Yes, I am one of the big, bad, clueless, compassion-less, selfish meanies who doesn’t have one ounce of patience for small children. Yes, I know your little darlings never act up in any way, or if they do, they’re “just being kids” and I should be the grown up in this instance.

Yeah? Well I’m not gonna, and you can’t make me.        

You decided to have children. You are responsible for them. In addition to feeding, changing and teaching them, you are also responsible for paying for things that they break and ensuring they don’t disturb the grown ups. There are zillions of family friendly and small kid based and themed restaurant, and people have the nerve to challenge the ridiculously few culinary refuges for adults who want a quiet night? Wow, do you need a fork lift for your cojones? They seem awfully big.

Not only do badly behaved children ruin adult experiences with noise and other childhood hi-jinx, they put the adults in an awkward position. So don’t think of it as your children bothering others, because I know that you seldom if ever do. Think of it more that our boiling rage is focused on YOU mom and dad. Yes YOU. We know how kids act. Most of us have been there. What you always fail to realize is that nature has given you an evolutionary immunity to children (YOUR children) that the rest of us don’t have. You quickly develop a finely tuned editing process to the noises your children make. Otherwise, you’d never sleep. You are able to determine when they are going to cry for 30 seconds or if it will be 20 minutes. You are able to determine if they are having fun and if they are going to escalate or if it is a momentary giggle. You have grown and evolved to understand the delicate nuance of every noise your child makes, what it means and when and how it needs to be addressed.

Know what it sounds like to the rest of us? A brat ruining our dinner. Know what it looks like to the rest of us? A brat ruining our dinner with oblivious parents standing by allowing it to happen

Let’s take a quick look at grown up behavior for a moment. Inevitably people will read this an accuse me of being childish. Ha, you have no idea how childish I am…the difference is I don’t scream in restaurants…except of course, if there are noisy children dining there too.
So lets say an adult acted like a grown up and went to a table where there were children screaming and acting out. Suppose they smiled and asked nicely if they could speak to one of the parents for a moment please… then they asked pleasantly and politely…”Hi, it’s my anniversary and I wanted to have a special dinner with my girlfriend at this fine dining establishment. I was wondering if it would be possible if you could ask your children to sit down and stop yelling? It’s really messing with the quality of our dining experience. Frankly we can’t afford to eat at places like this every night, so it’s really becoming an expensive and unpleasant experience… Really? Thanks, you’re a dove. have dessert on me.”

That’s fairly straightforward and adult isn’t it? Of course lots of parents would be incensed at even being asked politely, but it beats this reaction by a country mile.

“Hey Mike and Carol, you wanna maybe shut Bobby and Cindy’s traps before I take ’em in the back and stuff ’em in the ice machine? I’m trying to get laid tonight and you’re messing with my chances.”

Yes, I think it safe to say that many a parent (not all) would be put out at such a polite and frankly reasonable request..So who isn’t acting like the grown up now?

Here are my responses to everything a parent might have to say on the subject.

“They’re just kids. Kids make noise”
“Yes they do, so how about keeping them out of quiet places ’til they outgrow it”

“I’m entitled to a night out too”
Yes you are. Hire a sitter or see if grandma has a date tonight and leave the kids with them

“It’s a free country”
No, it really isn’t and it’s especially not a free restaurant NEXT!!

“This restaurant is open to the public”
So you wont mind if I invite two smelly winos to sit next to you, take off their shoes and play “Hey what does this smell remind you of?”

“You have no idea what it’s like to be a parent”
And after observing you, the prospect terrifies me.

“It takes a village…”
Yeah? Well I’m not one of the Village People.

The self righteous indignation of these parents reminds me of fascist non-smokers. I am a smoker and I am well aware of how unhealthy it is as well as how intrusive it is to non-smokers. While there is little to no justification for smoking, the behavior of the No Smoking Nazis leaves much to be desired.
I have partaken in many a debate about smoking legislation. No smoking in restaurants…OK, I get it. No smoking in bars…hmmm. This law was bulldozed through in NYC, and yet Mayor Bloomberg never ran on any anti-smoking platform. Therefore my black lunged brethren and I never had a chance to vote on it. Seems a little unfair.

I was managing a bar at the time and both tobacco biggies R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris were offering to pay for separate ventilation systems in bars and nightclubs, or to build separate rooms as smoking lounges. It wasn’t even considered for one second. This is my problem with the rabid non-smokers. Even when they aren’t exposed to it, they seem to get a big and lively bug up their asses in regards to someone smoking…anywhere. So we smokers were forced out into the elements to indulge in your yucky little addiction. But, of course, it didn’t stop there. It never does.

Then the non-smokers started complaining about the smokers outside. One expression I hear when a non-smoker is making their case is “blowing smoke in my face”. Exaggerate much? No one blows smoke in anyone’s face except in the movies. On an online discussion group I recently read about a woman who felt put out because “Every time I walk by a smoker with my children I have to pick them up and run past them telling my kids to hold their breath.” Um, hysterical much? I’m sure your children will grow up to be neurotic little me-monkeys just like mom.

Once while waiting for a flight I found a “Smokers Lounge” at JFK airport. It was gorgeous. Wood paneling with free coffee drinks and snacks, beautifully ventilated and not a single non-smoker had to be exposed to one-step-below-child-molesters that are smokers. Yet, sadly, predictably, on my next flight it was closed. Why? Because the non-smokers just couldn’t stand for us to have a place to smoke. There was no exposure to our smoke…children were not allowed in, so what is the rationale?

In closing, I would like to say that it really takes some serious namby pamby whining to get a curmudgeonly grouch to address these non issues. Wouldn’t we be better served focusing on real issues? You know… like old people in front of me taking too long to pay for their groceries.

  1. Brilliantly written. Standing ovation for you. I’m tired of being bothered by little crumb snatchers whose parents are too oblivious to tell them to sit down and shut up.

  2. I am just waiting for the fallout from some parent telling me what a heartless ogre I am.

  3. […] on their smart phones to actually be bothered with something as mundane as parenting.  I wrote a piece not too long ago about my thoughts on children, families and family restaurants (I’m not a […]

  4. Tallkronan says:

    I agree. And I agree.


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