Love my woman, love my baby, love my biscuits sopped in gravy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Control Your Children!

If you'd ever like to start a fight with someone with kids try telling them they can't control their children. In fact, someone tried it out on me just yesterday. Nobody got killed but that didn't stop me from thinking about it.

We met the cousins at the park by their house and threw around baseballs and frisbees until the kids were a little tired. There is a fine line to know when it's time to stop playing and go eat. If you go too soon the kids won't eat because they think they are not hungry, but if you wait too long they will go into thermonuclear meltdown, and then, well, you really *can't* control them.

Afterwards, we went to an empty Chinese food place, and we were having chow fun, which coincidentally the name of the plate we ordered. The kids are all pretty young, ranging from two to eight, and were having fun trying different foods. Now to be fair, their napkins were not folded in their laps, and they probably weren't using their best indoor voices, but none were running around, or swinging from the lights, or stabbing each other. It was not mayhem.

Until the Grouch showed up.

The Grouch in this case was one of those middle-to-close-to-retirement-aged California archetypes that have an easygoing appearance, which hides their bitter and lonely existence. Snowy haired on top, tanned skin, faded cotton in the middle, flip flops on the bottom are the uniform of these Jimmy Buffett fans, minds addled from years of illegal drugs and beer-buzzed afternoons.

As soon as he sat down he unlocked his phone and started playing some Steely Dan bootlegs from 1982, as loud as the phone would play, while the kids ignored it and the adults at our table looked at each other quizzically. California is a live and let live culture though, so normally, people do not engage strangers. It comes off as unfriendly, but it's how people who dress like Marilyn Manson, Donald Trump, or The Dude can all work in the same office. We shrugged at another weirdo, and my brother-in-law Derek mentioned the guy was off kilter and we went back to our own business. My wife said, "This is the weirdest meal I've ever had."

After another five minutes passed and his music was still playing louder than the obligatory Chinese mood music, we turned around to assess the level of crazy we were dealing with. The Grouch said, "Is my phone too loud? Because I can turn it up."

"We'd like you to turn it off," Derek said.

The Grouch said he wanted it loud as long as we were loud, and then clarified. "You can't control your children."

In the time that's passed since this happened, I've gone over about a million different ways that I could have handled this, other than the way I did.

"Sure, I can control them. Kids! Let's have a screaming contest! Loudest and longest gets a chocolate bar!"

That would have had the guy running for the hills as quick as anything. I didn't do it that way, though. Most of my post-game evaluation involved more Clint Eastwood versions of myself handling the problem, where I calmly walk up and put his head in his eggrolls, or drop his phone in his beer. Another version had me marching him out of the restaurant by his ear, like the way Kurt Russel did to Billy Bob Thornton in Tombstone.

Instead, what I really did was treat the guy the way I would treat my own kids if they were acting up.
I just looked at him, and said, "Do you want me to turn it off for you?"
That line works pretty well on little kids who decide quickly that they don't, but for an old goat with the personality of Nellie Olson, all it did was escalate the situation. He decided that he would indeed like for me to come over and try turning it off for him. He made a gesture, sort of an invitation, to come over and settle it, man to man. Or in this case, man to Grouch.
I obliged him, and got up and socked him in the dentures as he fumbled for his cane. 

Ok, he wasn't that old and I didn't sock him. But I was considering it, when my lovely and level headed wife laid a gentle hand of reason on my shoulder and told me to turn around, because it was not worth it in front of the kids. That was not as easy to do as you would think, but it worked. The Grouch got up and sought refuge at another table, in the only other room this place had.

He then ran his mouth some more wishing us a nice time, and complaining. I didn't really hear or care what he said but probably two more minutes passed before he had worn out his welcome in the other room. Derek went to offer to pay for his food by which time he was already at the register cussing out his frustrations and getting closer to another whipping from the customers in that room. It got louder again, so I walked over to offer to help.

Then I noticed that the customer he had started to anger was a guy who I have met a couple of times who works for a living, and is built like he could lift a septic tank over his head. He was about to stand up and offer the Grouch a demonstration when his wife talked him out of it and he sat back down.
The Grouch left cursing, effectively ruining dinner for everyone, with his dentures and phone intact.
What's the point of all of this?

For one, it's a good argument for marriage. My wife was probably the only person who would have stopped me from doing something stupid, and potentially dangerous and criminal. The same goes for Derek and the other guy in the restaurant. The Grouch could have been a retired ninja, but not likely, and came close to getting more than his feelings hurt.

It's also a chance for me to ask people who do not have kids and therefore think they should have complete control over their environments to have some patience and use the manners you expect from the children. Don't antagonize the parents, just ask politely if the kids could dial it back a notch, or complain to manager if you can't be polite enough. But don't act like a child yourself. Put on your big boy pants and act like an adult, because trying to guilt or shame parents by insulting them is only going to lead to a confrontation.

And I really don't want to have to turn your phone off for you.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Merry Christmas Already

Don't get me wrong, I like Dizzyland, but with the entire place already decked out with Santa, Christmas trees, wreaths, ornaments, music, and fake snow, it was weird that nothing in the whole park (that I could find) said Merry Christmas. The most glaring spot was on Small World. The closest they came was Feliz Navidad, but it's in Spanish. Even the new section that's supposed to represent the US said Ho Ho Holiday. The Chinese section said Happy New Year.

I know it's a post Christian nation, they keep telling us, but for pete's sake, would the Hindus, Muslims, and the rest really throw such a fit over using "Merry Christmas" once in a while? I don't think they would, and it was offensive to me that they did not. Disney has  "Gay Day Celebration,"  "Happy Hearts Day," for disabled people, and "Deaf Awareness Day," but won't call a horse a horse at Christmas.

The one exception is a Candlelight Processional, where a procession of carolers sings traditional Christmas carols and a celebrity narrates the biblical Christmas story. They do this once a year and it is supposed to be great, and it packs out every time.

The poor corporate decision to not use the term Christmas in the other two months they have the park decorated for *Christmas* is baffling.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pay it Off

"I had always thought that Christians were supposed to stop sinning and attend church, so they could then donate money to the pastor so he could lead people into a relationship with God. Some of these radical college students I met actually wanted to be a part of serving others personally rather than paying someone else to do it." Eric Bryant, Peppermint Filled Pinatas.

A little bit cynical maybe, but Eric makes a very good point here. He's talking about when he was in college and met some people who went to Baylor who acted out their faith differently than some people he knew who were cultural Christians who seemed to attend church and live, we can assume, in hypocrisy.

This is one of the most frequent charges I hear against the church and her people. They say one thing on Sunday, and live another way the rest of the week. There are hypocrites everywhere because there are people everywhere. People are human and will always fail you in one sense or another, so finding some hypocrisy in a group of people should not be surprising. Also, it's much easier to dismiss a message that is difficult to hear if it requires changes and action by you, not just criticism. It something that Christians should be very aware of and should work to change if they can.

It's even more challenging once you've accepted the basic tenets of Christianity. This personal charge to change the way you operate is not just one that requires you keep your word to fix your hypocrisy, it goes to every part of your life. God doesn't want to just selectively pluck the obviously diseased leaves, he's ready to give a wholesale pruning. Jesus said it was like being reborn.

Once you're ready for that he'll work on upkeep, too, and present you with new challenges to make you grow. One of the big areas he's given us is with telling others about him, and going out into other cultures to do this. He tells stories of hurt people who are helped and says go and do likewise. He says, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?"

He tells his followers to "go and make disciples of all nations", but it's easier, as Eric put it, to pay someone else to do it. When you say, "The cost of going there and doing the work myself would be better spent if I just sent them the money," you are saying that you would rather pay someone else to do what God is asking you to do. God would rather have your time and work than your money.

The benefit of doing the work is experience, and the journey, and the change you will make in someone's life. The chance you would have to do that is what God is after, not the chance to click a donate now button. You can alleviate some guilt, I guess, by donating to the cause or paying someone else to "go and do likewise," but you're really cheating yourself. He wants you to help the widows and orphans, and to care for the sick and help those who are unloved. You're his proxy while you're here.

It wasn't easy for him while he was here, and if you are feeling like you've done your job by giving to the shelter, you're only half right.

You are missing the hardest, yet most fulfilling part.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Herbert Bayard Swope

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor | Illustrated Guide to Familiar American Trees by Charlie Smith: "It's the birthday of journalist Herbert Bayard Swope, (books by this author) born in St. Louis in 1882. He said, 'I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure — which is: Try to please everybody.'"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

J.M. Barrie Quote

"When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on."

This is from the book Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. It was written in 1911, and contrary to the Johnny Depp version in the movie Finding Neverland, Barrie was actually a hot dog vendor on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio, when he wrote that. His inspiration was a not a young boy with a sick mother, but a mean old landlady who berated him for his rent at least three times a day. He ended up spending his life in prison for her murder, when he threw her into Lake Erie with an old fashioned ice hook through the chest.

It must be bedtime.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Garrison Keillor Quote

That's the thing about Christianity -- it goes right straight to the hard part. Jesus didn't lay out a twelve step program, sort of a gradual step up. He just said love your neighbor as yourself. There are no incremental steps that lead up to this. Love cool people, love young people, love your grandchildren, love people who give you nice gifts, love Cary Grant and Betty Davis, love old blues singers who are dead, love some of your neighbors. It just goes right straight to it -- love your neighbor as yourself, give all you have to the poor and follow me. To Wham! The impossible. You start with the impossible.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Johnny Cash Quote

I'm still a Christian, as I have been all my life. Beyond that I get complicated.

- Johnny Cash