Monday, October 11, 2004

Check Please!

If you were eating dinner at Chin’s Panda Palace on Friday night, I want to extend my most sincere apology for the behavior of my family. And to the lady who my daughter covered with chicken in black bean sauce, send me the cleaning bill. I’m terribly sorry.

After The Perfect Son’s t-ball game, Hot Wife and I made a life or near-death decision in the parking lot: should we get Chinese take-out or eat at the restaurant. I tried strenuously to remind my wife how torturous our last several family meals out have been, but she said the kids had been good all day and I should just suck it up. “It’ll be fine,” she said, and I acquiesced to her hotness. I’m a sucker for short, blonde aerobics instructors with blues eyes and perfect teeth.

I should have fought harder. Not two minutes after we were seated, The Perfect Son was under the table looking for other people’s gum and Adorable Daughter was screaming for more crunchy, fried noodles: “Mah. Mah. Noonle. Noonle. Aaaaaaaaaah!” The waitresses came to our table one by one to try to distract the kids from their methodical destruction of the restaurant. One brought chopsticks, which my son stuck up his nose. One brought ice water, which my daughter dumped on the floor. One brought a big bottle of Asahi, which Hot Wife and I guzzled so as to anesthetize our dread over the catastrophic decision we’d made to bring these heathen children into a restaurant. “Bring me another,” Hot Wife bellowed, “and a straw!”

When the food came, Armageddon began. The Perfect Son demanded to be able to put his own soy sauce on his own damn rice. He picked up the bottle – the kind with holes on both ends of the pourer so as to create a flash flood of soy sauce – and drowned the table in Kikoman. Through it all, Hot Wife continued to cut beef with broccoli into small pieces. She placed the little bitelets on a plate in front of Adorable Daughter, who made it abundantly clear that she would have preferred Italian food for dinner. She began to hurl pieces of broccoli and chicken and little balls of rice at the other customers. Her curveball needs work, but her other pitches seemed to find the strike zone. Wicked change-up.

The woman in the booth behind us took the brunt of Adorable Daughter’s tantrum. She had so many chow mein noodles in her hair that she could have passed for Medusa. Her face was strewn with angst and little pieces of water chestnut. And I guarantee that she will never be able to wear that blouse again without enduring nightmarish visions of projectile moo shu pork.

Hot Wife and I looked at each other and spoke the unspoken language of parenthood -- the look that says, “On the count of three, run.” I knew what she wanted. I wanted it, too. I raised my hand to summon the waiter. When he caught my eye from across the dining room, I drew a little scribble in the air – the universal sign for “Bring me the goddamn check so I can get these dogs back to the kennel.” He obliged. We paid and got up to leave.

As we walked out the door, everyone in the restaurant clapped and cheered.

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