Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Polite Society

This topic is already a number of days old.  I am late to the discussion, but it’s a subject I’ll likely revisit, the next time it comes up in a different form.

The chef at a posh restaurant in Chicago tweeted about clientele with a crying baby that ended up upsetting other diners.  The topic then erupted in social media.  Should one bring a young child to a fancy restaurant/concert/theater/etc.?  I chose to read about it at Design Mom, since I knew there would be other mothers chiming in.  As well, Design Mom has six kids of her own, so she knows.  I figured the discussion would be friendlier than in a non-mother-specific venue.

I do not like to see children banned from establishments solely because of the cost of the ticket/dinner.  In a perfect world, such things ought to be based on parental common sense.  Within my own family, there are certain children who, when they were very young, would have done fine in an atmosphere requiring maturity, and there are others who . . . well, not so much so.  I knew who could be trusted to the treat of live theater; I wouldn’t have considered bringing along someone who couldn’t.  Those with a mature child shouldn’t be driven from polite society by an arbitrary age cut-off.

The fact of the matter is, nowadays, too many adults do not know how to behave in polite society.  Allow me to present the following:

·         You attend an evening performance of musical theater.  The overture begins.  Four adults in front of you continue their conversation, tittering loudly enough for people a number of rows away to notice. Did I mention that the orchestra is already playing?

·         You attend the ballet.  Sitting in front of you is a group of young teenagers.  The adult chaperone spends the entire second act, whispering with the person next to her.

·         You attend a baseball game.  Whilst trying to watch the game, the adults in front of you decide to stand up and chat with others farther down the row from them, thus obscuring the view of the game for anyone in the few rows behind them. 

·         You attend a movie.  It’s a big one, so there aren’t a lot of empty seats and you’re stuck with what you’ve got.  Down the row from you, a woman feels the need to keep a running commentary for her husband on how she thinks the characters are feeling, during the times when there is no dialogue.  Not only is this obnoxious, she gets it wrong most of the time.

·         In any venue in which there is a darkened theater, you are bound to be assaulted by the lit-up phone screens for those who can’t figure out how to power down before the start of the show or the second act.  That ubiquitous Facebook: can’t a person take one evening off?

I’ve dealt with those situations and more.  In re-reading my list of complaints, I sound bitter.  If there’s any bitterness, it’s because of the double standard that rears its ugly head, whenever the report of an unruly child arises.  Without a doubt, there is a problem with parents who lack common sense.  However, my enjoyment of live theater (or Major League Baseball) has been interrupted by adults more than ever it has by children.

Perhaps this is a marketing scheme whose time has come: advertise one performance in a series for adults who cannot keep quiet for the length of the performance, overture included.  Those who cannot power down the phone before the house lights dim shall also be directed to this performance.  Huh . . .

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