Monday, May 8, 2017

Fine Dining and Teenagers

Last night my family and I were dining at one of our town’s finest establishments: IHOP.  That’s the International House of Pancakes.  I had the crepes.  Crepes are French.  Small had the grilled cheese.  Grilled cheese is from . . . where is grilled cheese from?  Medium ordered the chicken tenders, which I believe is Spanish for “long chicken nuggets.”  
We sat in a booth near the front and we noticed there was a group of 4-5 male teenagers at a nearby booth.  They were talking more loudly than is appropriate for normal conversation and periodically I heard a curse word (and if I’m being honest, I didn’t hear anything I wouldn’t say under my breath in the privacy of my own car to a particularly inept driver.)   Other than that, I didn’t notice them too much.  
            Midway into our meal, a family of 4 was seated in between my family and the teenagers.   I noticed when they sat down that the booth seats must not have been anchored very well into the wall, because when they sat, our seat moved.  The noise level raised a bit as well, because now my family, (which includes 3 excited boys,) a family of four, and the teenagers were all talking at once.
            All of a sudden, the family dad raised his voice and asked an employee if he could be moved to another booth.  The mom added that she kept getting “bonked in the head.”  I overheard the dad say “you’ve already made someone angry.”  They grabbed their soda glasses and their paper napkins and were escorted to another part of the restaurant while other patrons shared the what just happened? look. 
            Perhaps you think I’m going to criticize the teenagers for being rowdy, or for using salty language, or for loitering, or for disrupting my family’s dinner. 
            Nope.
            I’m going to suggest that the dad could have handed the situation a little differently.  I understand he was frustrated, but perhaps he could have quietly asked to be moved if the noise was bothering him.
     Here’s the thing.  It was a group of teenage boys on a Sunday afternoon who went to IHOP to get some grub and hang out.  There really aren’t many places for them to go these days where they will be welcomed.  Think back to when you were in high school . . . wasn’t one of the best parts of being a teenager being able to hang out with your friends without your parents hovering over you? 
            We were once in IHOP after a local football game when the entire back room, where my family of 5 happened to be dining, filled up with teenagers excited about a team win.  Yep, it got loud in there.  But if I wanted a quiet evening of fine food and drink, I wouldn’t have picked IHOP.  (Nothing against IHOP . . . I think it’s clear from this post that we loves the IHOP.)  I take my family to IHOP because there are all kinds – screaming babies and preschool playgroups and laughing teenagers. 

            Cut them some slack.  Teenagers have a lot of weight on their shoulders; if they want to go to a safe place to hang out and laugh with their friends, we should allow them some space to do so.  I’m not suggesting you hang out at 7-11 in case some 16-year-old needs you to buy him beer, but let them be kids.  Take a step back and ask yourself, are they really causing any trouble?  We were all teenagers once; just remember that. 

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Be nice, kids.