On occasion my husband warns me that if I meet three jerks in a day, then chances are I’m the jerk. (Although he doesn’t actually use the word jerk.)
Indeed, despite the fact I lead a relatively charmed life, I’ve been feeling a little jerky of late. It could be because I’ve been sick for the better part of two weeks and just about everything is irritating me. Or it could be because deep down, I’m really just a jerk. Either way — a little spring cleaning, if you will.
We rarely take our daughter out to eat. Mostly because four minutes after sitting down in any restaurant is when she decides to experiment with just how far she can hurl a spoon. And also because while she’s not exactly a picky eater, she likes what she likes how and when she likes it and unlike at home, the staff in a restaurant is generally not so keen on continuously preparing her a variety of foods until she eventually picks something.
Which is why when we took her for dinner at a nearby hotel bar a few weeks ago it seemed as if ordering her the macaroni and cheese from the kids’ menu was a safe bet. I figured at $10 a plate, it must be one of those fancy mac and cheese dishes, like it would arrive infused with truffle oil, laced with chunks of slow braised short ribs, baked with gold flakes or studded with emeralds. After all, no one can possibly charge that much for just plain macaroni and cheese on a kids’ menu. Even in a hotel. Even in a resort town.
And I was right. It wasn’t actually macaroni and cheese. It was penne and cheese. But the penne was where the fanciness ended (and I’m not sure penne really falls into the fancy category — cavatelli or fusilli, maybe, but not penne).
Talk to other parents of kids between the ages of zero and 3 or 4, and I’m guessing many of them will also feel as if they would like some warning when macaroni is actually penne. My princess will only eat penne with tomato sauce. She likes her melted cheese with actual macaroni. And at an extravagant $10 for a shallow bowl with about 20 pieces of penne and nary a precious gem or edible fungus in sight, I call B.S.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is our neighborhood diner, which proudly charges $3.50 for a small dish of Kraft macaroni and cheese straight from the 99-cent box (plus fries and a drink). Granted there are few things more comforting than Kraft, but if I knew that’s what they were serving, I would have made and fed it to her at home on principle alone. I even would have garnished it with a sprig of parsley, if it made her feel special.
For my complaining, I’ve been rewarded in the form of a large purple dinosaur. I don’t mind Barney (although the new one eerily sounds as if he could be featured on an episode of Dateline’s “To Catch A Predator”) as much as whiny Baby Bop and her obnoxious older brother, BJ. But what really irks me is the voice-over at the end. The woman who sounds like an NPR reject who comes on to deliver an episode summary for the adults. She explains in detail what actually happened over the past 28 minutes, what kids were supposed to take from it and how parents can continue to teach their children in real life. You know, in case we missed the real message in the song, “Look Both Ways When You Cross the Street.”
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer (I watched “Spinal Tap” three times and felt awful for the band, wondering why they ever would have agreed to be the subject of a documentary). But I feel confident that during each episode of Barney I absorb the lessons that are simple enough for my 20-month-old daughter to understand. And she frequently tries to bathe fully clothed in a waterless tub.
Then there’s the matter of my Yahoo e-mail. I clicked the send button the other day after typing a message when a warning popped up: “Forget something? Please enter an e-mail address in the To: field.” Do I really need sarcasm in my Yahoo mail? Am I supposed to be a doormat just because it’s free?
And those “Don’t even think about parking here” signs. Really, parking department? Are things that slow in the office that you need to come up with spicy copy for your signs? Did I miss the launch of the campaign to make parking tickets and meter maids sexier?
As Navin R. Johnson said, “First they didn’t have the bamboo umbrellas for the drinks, and now snails on the plate.” My thoughts exactly.
More on and from Meredith at MeredithCarroll.com.