“We would like a booth and a high chair, please!” I say to the smiling hostess.
“Of course!” she answers and directs us towards the windows. Sam slides on the vinyl seat, while I wait for her to bring a high chair for Marc. After securely placing Marc in the high chair, I slide on the opposite seat. The hostess has placed a coloring book and crayons in front of Marc and he is happily scribbling on it. I smile at Sam and say:
“How did you know about this place?”
“One of my colleagues at work recommended it.”
We look around. Each booth is occupied with a Mom, Dad and their children. Elderly couples are seated at the tables in the corner, glancing benevolently around them and smiling at the children’s antics.
“Hi! I am Tracy. What would you like to drink?”
“Beer for us and milk for Marc.” Answers Sam.
“Sure thing! I’ll be back.”
Their service is fast. In no time at all the drinks arrive. A plastic cup covered with a plastic top is placed in front of Marc. He looks at the strange object and then watches Tracy slip a straw in the middle of the plastic top. This is a novelty for him. He reaches out and holds the straw and pulls it out from the cup then tries to push it back in again. I watch him for a few seconds. Fearing that he is going to spill the milk, I take straw from him and push it in the plastic cup myself. He looks at it for a moment then looks at me and with a frown takes the straw out and tries one more time to push it in.
“Let him play with it.” Says Sam when he sees me reaching for the cup again.
“He’s going to spill the whole thing.”
“The cup is sturdy. It will hold.”
I look at it skeptically. Marc is now banging the straw on top of the cup. The straw is bending under the pressure but is not slipping in the slot.
I reach for my voluminous bag and extract the sturdy cup with the screw on lid that I use at home. As I place on the table, two things happen at once.
Tracy stands near the end of the table near the high chair, to take our orders and with a mighty bang Marc pushes the straw in the cup.
The cup topples, the plastic lid opens and milk splatters everywhere: on the table, on the floor and on Tracy.
We all freeze for a minute. Marc recovers first and starts banging the little table in front him and splashing the milk that has gathered there like a small pond, everywhere, making matters worse.
I pick up my napkin and try to wipe out the table while trying to hold his hands and stop him from making a bigger mess. But he is so happy with this new game that he doesn’t want to stop. When I hold one hand, he splashes with the other. When I manage to hold both hands, he twists so much that the high chair is in danger of toppling.
“I am so sorry!! We are so sorry!!” repeats Sam while trying to mop the residual milk from the table and the floor.
To her credit Tracy remains calm.
“Please don’t worry. It happens all the time. I’ll clean this in a moment.”
“I am so sorry! He is not yet used to a straw. It is my fault I should have put the milk in his own cup.”
“Please don’t worry.” Tracy leaves to get someone to clean up.
I get Marc out of the High chair to stop him splashing the spill around. I quickly dry his hands and face and place him on the floor. He wobbles on his chubby feet and like a roadrunner starts running around the room, zigzagging around the tables and screaming. He is so fast I have a hard time following him. “I’m sorry.” I call out for the hundredth time as I bump into the tables and chairs as I run after him and try to catch him.
I finally succeed. I pick him up and walk back to our table.
Sam has replaced the high chair with a clean one and another waiter is finishing up cleaning the floor.
I try putting Marc back in his chair, but he absolutely refuses and starts twisting and slipping out of my grip. Embarrassed by all the commotion we have already caused, I give in and place him on the seat next to me. He has the table in front of him, the window and me on each side and the back of the seat in the back. For a split second, he assess his surrounding and then stands up immediately and climbs on top of the table. What follows is a weird game of tag. With the cunning of a fox, Marc evades my outstretched arms by either climbing on top of the table or slipping under the table.
Tracy comes back to take our order. I let Sam order for all three of us. I am having a hard time keeping Marc on the bench.
The food finally arrives. At the sight of it, Marc realizes that he is hungry and meekly agrees to sit in the high chair again. Sam has ordered hamburgers for us and chicken nuggets for Marc.
I cut up the nuggets into small pieces and place them in front of him.
With a sigh I sit back. My back and arms are hurting. It feels like I have run a marathon and I am not hungry anymore.
I watch Marc eat. Every piece that goes into his mouth is followed by a piece that is thrown on the floor. I make to stand up and clean the floor, when Sam, reaches out and takes hold of my hand.
“Let it go. We’ll clean when we finish.”
“But the mess…”
“Let him finish his meal and then we’ll clean together. Eat your hamburger.’
“If you have finished, order the check and let’s go home.”
I stand up, bend down and start gathering the nuggets pieces on the floor. Another pair of hands armed with a towel join me.
“Please, don’t worry. I’ll clean it up.” Says Tracy.
Sam settles the bill.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to show our faces here again. After the mess Marc made we are definitely on their black list.”
Sam stops and looks around.
“I like this place. It will become our favorite hangout.”