Sunday, April 19, 2009

Contrary to what you might believe, I have no plans to eat your toddler

Attention, Yupster parents of Bethesda:

If you want to keep a close eye on your cute kiddo while he plays with the toys at the coffee shop, might I recommend that you sit at the empty table next to the toys?

I went to the Caribou Coffee in Bethesda today, right at the corner of Woodmont and Old Georgetown Road. Truly, I felt like I was cheating on my beloved Mayorga, but, honestly, on a Sunday evening when the fuel tank's nearly on empty, a stop at the local Caribou is a lot more convenient that a drive up to King Farm or over to Silver Spring. This was especially true today, as I had to swing by one of my favorite Bethesda spots, The Store That Has EVERYTHING (aka, Bruce Variety - and yes, that is a link to an NY Times article about Bruce Variety!!), which is next door to The Hardware Store That Has EVERYTHING (Strosniders.) Man, I love that strip mall! You can go into Bruce Variety and ask for a shepherd's crook, buttons, a bra, contact paper, flip flops, a tiny notebook, a bag of little green army men, and pirate eye patches, and the staff will quickly direct you to everything on your list. I swear, it's true. Today, I just needed shower shoes and some buttons & thread. Mission accomplished in about two minutes. It's like ropin' calves.

After my swift victory at the five & dime (more like $8.50, really), I snagged a parking spot right across the street from the downtown Bethesda Caribou, in front of the new, incredibly pretentious "doorman building" on Woodmont with the creepy, deformed lion statues at the entrance. Sorry if it sounds mean, but I'm hating the continuing devolution of Bethesda from what was once a town with some character (hooray that places like Stromboli and the Writer's Center survive!) into an overpriced Stepford Wife plastic crap land. Grr.

And Stepford Wife communities attract Yuppies. And Yuppies breed. With alarming regularity. Bethesda has more than its share of vaguely absentee, yet paranoid Yuppie parents. I encountered a set of these parents today when I walked into Caribou. This particular Caribou location is tiny. If you get there at a busy time and find a place to plant yourself, count yourself lucky. Today, I was fortunate to find a small table open, right next to the toy pile, where a happy toddler was investigating a Fisher-Price barn. (And may I say, the modern Fisher-Price barns are not even close to being as cool as the old wooden ones were back when I was a toddler. We had wood grain contact paper and doors that moo'ed! And sharp corners, too! YEAH!) As I approached the table, which is nestled in a narrow corner, a man jumped up from a table two spots down from the oblivious toddler and stood in my path, glaring. After pondering my human roadblock for a moment, I realized the man-wall was the father of the toddler. Mommy sat at the table, blankly staring at me as I tried to get past her mate.

Finally, I said, "EXCUSE ME." Politely, but very loudly. Daddy-o hustled over to the toddler's side, squatted down, and stared daggers at me as I settled in and set up my computer. After a couple of minutes, he retreated to his table and watched, glowering from a distance. I could feel this guy's eyes boring a hole into my back, and every time I turned my head or stretched my arms, he started to get up again. I've looked at myself in the mirror many times, kids. I'm not exactly child predator material. Nor am I swift enough to grab your toddler and run for the door with any chance of successfully making a break.

And why, oh why, if you are incredibly paranoid, wouldn't you take the damn table right next to the pile of toys, rather than make a stranger feel like Chris Hansen is going to pop up out of nowhere and ask your intentions?!? When I got up to get my iced coffee refilled, dad bolted up from his seat again and watched my every move. And that's when I said, "You know, the table next to the toys was open when I got here. Why didn't you sit there - or move there - rather than sit at a table so far from the toy area? I'm not posing any sort of threat to your kid, and I have a right to sit at any open table." Father of the Year didn't say a word, but he did sit back down. When I got back to the table, the kidlet (who was adorable) dragged the big plastic barn down onto the floor and over onto my feet. I finally had to say to him, "You know, I bet that barn is supposed to stay on the table, buddy." He stared up at me and grinned. Before I'd said another word, his father had swept down like a one-man locust plague and snatched the kid up. (Not the barn, though.)

I swear, it was as if I had "HORRIBLE DISEASE CARRIER - DO NOT TOUCH" tattooed on my forehead. The Yuppie Clan was out the door immediately, with the little guy crying to take the barn home with him. I moved the barn off my feet and back to the toy table and just shook my head. I yearn for the days of old school parenting and parental responsibility. Or, at the very least, parental attention. Bethesda is seriously lacking any of that.


Rant over. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along...


Chuck said...

I think it's cool you always let the jerks at these places know how rude they're being. I never do that. I think DC must be full of rude people. Where I live probably has its share of them, though...

Merujo said...

Sometimes, it works, sometimes it feels good, and sometimes it gets me into trouble. (And sometimes, even my friends don't like it. You can ask the Sasquatch about me getting mouthy.) But I'm always amazed here by the sense of entitlement demonstrated by a number of folks here. I know there are tons and tons of lovely, normal people in the DC area. But we seem to have more than our share of people with inappropriately elevated levels of self-worth.

Madame Meow said...

"...vaguely absentee, yet paranoid Yuppie parents."

Oh yes. DC is teeming with their kind and you couldn't have said it better.

Shuttermecki said...

Eh, if it was that crowded, I wonder if the seat by the toys was free when they sat down, and they were too tired to move- or if they were distancing themselves from the BAA-crash-MOO-vroom noises to be able to string thoughts together.. but blocking you from sitting there is showing a real lack of something basic.

It's endemic to the whole area- down here in Alexandria, you can recognize the people more important than you by their cars, which are flying through red lights on US1. Back before Bethesda was the restaurant capital of the world, when us little-uns were just beating rocks together, grunting, and inventing the wheel, all the 'rents were in a babysitting coop. So when Mom & Dad needed a break, they just cashed in a token they got from watching someone else's kid, and went out.

Now, so few of us know local teenagers, parents guard good names like corporate secrets- heck, most of us don't know our neighbors period, and if we watch local news, we know not to trust a soul! So we have to take our kids out with us, even when we need to go out and get a break from them.

Bruce's, BTW, ROCKS.

Robin said...

The guy (or the mom) really could have just taken the barn and kid near them, too.

I've known a few "vaguely absentee yet paranoid" parents. LOL. I've known some really great parents, too, albeit more of the "yuppie" types live down your way than mine. Just not completely.

speener said...

Do you ever wonder if the assholes have blogs and write about you? I do.

Anyway - it's one of the things that scares me about having kids is people assuming that I'm like the great percentage of parents out there who seem think the world revolves around them and their spawn.

Makes me appreciate the friends that I have that have done a great job raising grounded well adjusted children.

Merujo said...

I assume somewhere there is a "Jeezus, Merujo is a biyotch" blog!

I love the way my closest parent-type friends are raising their kids - it's much closer to how we were raised than the "empowered child" stuff seen far too often here.

And I love the fact that they haven't cut me off as some have, just because I haven't had kids or gotten married. Sadly, this has happened more than once. Grr.

I can see you as a cool, fun, and firm dad, Spencer!!

Cyn said...

First of all: this has got to be your best blog title ever. Secondly, an endorsement: I can honestly say, for the time I have known you, you have never manifested even the slightest cannibalistic leanings. So there, Mr. Yuppie Dad.

The webpage for the condo cracked me up with its pretension (All Hail the Most Majestic Condominium!) Although, truth in advertising: the lions are majestically stupid-looking.

Anyway, I do tend to cut parents a bit more slack since becoming one...and seriously I have just a little bit of inner joy when I see a kid misbehaving in public, because it means I'm not the only one who has been profoundly embarrassed by the fruit of my loin in front of strangers.

Not to exempt the strange behavior of that dude...but being a parent can make you do weird and illogical things. But -- you can be weird and illogical and also be polite and if you don't want to keep your toddler with you at your table, then keep your toddler out of the coffee house.