Monday, May 19, 2008

Dinner and a crash

We've been taking the kid to all kinds of restaurants. We've eaten in white-tablecloth establishments with suited-up waiters and "family-style" joints with Formica-ish booths and a 3,000-decibel noise level. And all these places offered crappy, crappy highchairs. 
Same style in all, of course -- minimalist wood structure, no padding, basic seatbelt, separate strap between the legs. That's OK. But the frayed belts, busted latches and rickety, swaying structure are not OK. What are they, kidding? Is the staff secretly placing bets on which highchair will disintegrate first, with an over-under on how long it'll take the kids to stop screaming after they hit the floor?
Last time we got a chair that appeared to think it was in the middle of a windstorm, I asked for another one. The waiter brought one, which was nice, but it only swayed slightly less, which was not. 
Over the weekend, we got one with a cracked latch. I thought, well, maybe it'll be fine, settled the kid in place and picked up the menu. It was fine, in that the latch didn't break open till we got the check. Granted, he didn't go anywhere -- just slid down in his seat until the middle strap stopped him. But if he'd been reaching for something at the time, or been off balance in any way, that could've been a bad scene.
And yes, the adults at the table should be watching him, you're absolutely right. But the whole point of these chairs, allegedly, is to keep the child secure so you can enjoy your food without worrying that the child will take a header onto the hardwood.
I've thought about why restaurants would spend tons of money on the food and the presentation and the ambience and then let their highchairs deteriorate into torture devices. And the only conclusion I can arrive at is that, like Lewis Black's candy corn, all the restaurant-approved highchairs ever made were made in 1911. And the restaurateurs, who for some reason always seem surprised when you walk in with a child and ask for a highchair -- you mean the child won't be standing in a corner while you eat? -- remember, then, that oh yes! They do have highchairs. And they send someone down to the cobweb-covered corner where the highchairs are kept, next to the yellowing newspaper clippings about the Teapot Dome Scandal, and that person hauls a chair out into the light, where it promptly disintegrates. 
Maybe next time we get a bum chair, I'll invite the maitre d' to our house for dinner, hack two legs off one of our chairs and have him sit in that.

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