Joe's Oasis and Grille

Have a seat at the bar, enjoy a tall cool one and listen to Joe the Bartender kibitz with our cast of regulars. Joe discusses everything from behind the bar, from favorite drink recipes, new gadgets, raising rugrats (or is that rugrat raising?), home-improvement, sports, and, of course, politics. So, welcome! The bar's open!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Brillo Pads and Warm Beer -- Learning the Dining Options of a New Dad

Recently, my wife and I decided to take our three-month old daughter, Princess-Pea, to one of the fancier dining establishments near our home. I seriously thought this could be done!

But then again, I also thought that there was an actual definition of what ‘is’ is and that they actually did know how to count in Florida.

You can always recognize an establishment that does not wish to welcome families with babies by the kind of coffee cups they use. For those of you without kids, you probably thought that the reason posh restaurants use tiny coffee cups was to accommodate the dainty fingers of the elite and well bred, or to add class to fancy drinks such as Irish Coffee, Mocha Mists, and Hot-Butter-Rum-Yoohoo. But the real reason is to prevent them from being used for the heating of baby bottles.

You see, parents learn to become very innovative. This is a survival instinct. At some time during any meal (usually at the precise moment Mom poises her dining utensils over her entrée), baby politely announces that she's hungry. This polite announcement usually reverberates quite soundly throughout the dining establishment, and mom will need to act swiftly. Since babies tend to be particular about the precise temperature of their formula, it usually saves the parents from the wrath of fellow diners if the bottle has been pre-heated in well-thought-out pre-eruption preparation. Some genius set of parents many years ago (possibly after a few pingings of flying butter knifes during their infant’s tirade) came up with the bright idea to have a cup of hot water handy to set the bottle in for quick heating. Ordering the hot water is now just standard procedure:

"Yes, a Heineken for me. Class of chardonnay for my wife...and a cup of hot water, please."

A baby bottle sticking out of a coffee cup is perfectly acceptable at Denny's. But not at places like Chez Oui, Oui.

Anyway, back to my story. I have young nieces and nephews. Seven in total...all of various sizes, shapes, sexes, and political affiliations. For ten years before our little bundle of joy came into our lives, I had the opportunity of watching my sisters and their families adhere to the strict legal restrictions that disallowed any family with children under the age of 22 into any dining establishment bearing food critic ratings of greater than negative 1 star.

Which basically leaves a wide choice of McDonalds, Denny's, Chuck-E-Cheese, and our family picnics featuring my grandmother's green bean casserole. (For those who have grandmothers that can wouldn't understand...for those who have ever dined on vegetables marinated in kerosene, you know what I'm talking about).

One day as I swirled my fingers through the gristle-laden grease and began probing around for a French fry that I knew had to be somewhere down at the bottom of the cardboard container marked “Super Size”, I watched my youngest nephew Benny finally squirm free from his mother's grasp and rush off to aid on the assault of a poor, hapless father who had naively ventured into Playland alone to retrieve his son. I think the kid was the ring leader or something, because he sure had a loyal following -- and they weren't going to let him leave without a fight. The way he crawled right up to the Plexiglas tube overhead, I gathered that Benny's mission was to be a full aerial assault. I didn’t want to speculate what he was going to use for ammunition, but I did notice that several packets of ketchup were mysteriously missing from the sack.

"Oh, man. I didn't know we were required to do our own dishes here," I said.

"What?" my sister Lynne replied.

"Look, right here in my sack -- they gave me a Brill-O pad."

"That's not a Brill-O Pad. That's your Quarter Pounder with cheese."

That was it! No way. Uh, uh. I had been told that once you had kids your life changes drastically. But not this drastic. Not for me, boy! That day I decided, once I have kids – I’m gonna buck the system!

See, I figured I had a plan.

I figured I was smarter.

I figured I was craftier.

But as we drove to the restaurant with Princess-Pea peacefully sleeping in her car seat in the back, quickly I realized that I had fungus for brains for even trying this!

I became convinced that night that there is a conspiracy out there. Children actually do rule the World, and they have a very sophisticated communication network that is far beyond our understanding. That night, from some super secret communication device embedded in the fabric of her car seat, Princess-Pea got the message from Command Central:

"One-Adam 12, One-Adam 12 -- be on the lookout, parents having joyful evening, heading southbound in a white Intrepid. Try stink bomb. Please advise."

"Ah, Rampart, this is Princess-Pea Squad -51. Negative on that stink bomb. Freshly changed. Repeat, freshly changed. Ammunition in the Diaper Genie. "

"What's you're next move then, Princess-Pea 51?"

"How's this Rampart? W-a-a-a-a-a-a!"

This of course sets forth the immediate panic-stricken counter offensive by the hapless couple in the Intrepid. (I really shouldn't refer to my wife and I in the third person like this, but it's just less painful this way…and besides, they’re monitoring us at Command Central).

The first reaction, of course, is to dive into the weapons cache. In most cases this is the pink and yellow multi-pocketed case with the ducky on the front. This is generally called a diaper bag. Macho guys refer to it as the dooditator-terminaor utility pack.

The first weapon against a full screaming assault is the bottle. Now, the problem in this particular case is that while zipping down the road at 65 mph, how do you heat the bottle?

In ancient and primitive cultures (such as Florida), parents used to carry a thermos full of hot water in which to dip the bottle for heating. This procedure evolved from the hot-cup-of-coffee-at-the- restaurant tactic discussed earlier.

But now in modern times (which, of course, would exclude Florida), they have this handy device that plugs into your cigarette lighter (oops - is the term CIGARETTE lighter politically correct? Maybe I should use the term 12-volt-utility-port) into which you place the bottle for heating.

This tactic does not come without its complications. Aside from the fact that it takes about 28 days to adequately heat a bottle with one of these apparatuses, there is also the problem of getting to the 12-volt-utility-port in the first place! I mean, by the time you unplug the cell phone, the GPS unit, e-mail connection, internet connection, portable CD player, cable TV outlet, the Play-Station, and the microwave oven, your kid would have graduated college and would be off seeking deep psychological therapy to heal deep emotional scars caused by inadequate bottle feedings.

Ironically, in this particular battle, it wasn't the bottle that was ultimately going to do the trick. For the first time in my stellar history of finding choice parking places, I found myself seeking the furthest reaches of the restaurant parking lot…someplace in the outlying Netherlands…w-a-a-a-y out…where it was dark and secluded enough so that my wife could....well...breast feed.

Now, there's not much a guy can do at this point, so I suggested that I'd at least go into the restaurant and put our names in.

As I meandered my way through the mingling crowd toward the maitre d', I felt all eyes upon me...happy couples and batches of friends watching the pathetic, lonely guy slink by. What a loser. No friends and his mother dresses him funny.

With furled eyebrows, the maitre d' looked passed my shoulder at first with confusion when I said "three please", then gave me a sure-we'll-accommodate-you-and-your-imaginary-friends-as-long-as-you're-not-paying-with-imaginary-money look before taking my name down. I thought he was going to call in a S.W.A.T. team when I asked for my name to be put w-a-a-a-a-a-y down at the bottom of the list, and that we wouldn't be ready for him for about another hour.

Then I ambled on into the bar.

"What can I get ya?" The bartender asked.

"Heineken please," I replied. And as he turned I heard myself saying "and a cup of hot water."

And before he decided to call in the S.W.A.T. team I said: "It's for the bottle!"

And it was. To save myself further embarrassment, I dipped my Heineken in the hot water.

As I sipped the lukewarm Heineken, I pondered my options that night at the restaurant where my wife and I enjoyed many intimate evenings. While my daughter was being cared for out in the parking lot, I realized what my dining pleasures had come to: Brill-O pads and warm beer. Bon appétit.

Quite drastic changes for a guy. But as I thought of my new daughter, of being a Dad for the first time, I knew without a doubt that not even a S.W.A.T. team could never make me go back or change a single thing.

“Another Heineken here, please. And could I have a warm up on this water?”


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