I have a high tolerance for "character" and quirkiness, even crankiness, in restaurants. It amuses me when La Quebrada affects not to understand my pronunciation of common Spanish food terms, for instance, even though I KNOW they do it on purpose.
But there are lines that should not be crossed. Today I discovered one of them.
Cutting along Golf toward Milwaukee I saw a hot dog place called Hot Dog Island, with an amusing sign of palm trees growing out of a dog on a bun. I swerved across four lanes to pull in, with the Wild Boys in tow.
The inside was a cramped but serviceable hot dog stand done in Vienna Beef colors. Unfortunately, so cramped that only two tables could actually squeeze in the high chair which was impractically kept in the foyer on the other side of the glass doors, and those tables were occupied. It would be far easier to simply tough it out than wait for one of those tables to open and wrestle the high chair inside the actual restaurant while keeping both boys under control. So, I picked a booth and hoped that the 4-year-old would stay put while I held the 1-1/2-year-old in line and ordered for all of us.
As I was finishing ordering I heard the owner say "Son, sit down" to my 4-year-old, who I guess had been standing in the booth as I ordered. Now, I'm not offended by a little parenting by strangers. If it's said with as much concern for the child as for the furniture, I'm even grateful. I looked over and he was, indeed, sitting down, duly chastened.
Then, as I sat down a moment later, I heard a lady who was evidently a regular say to the owner, jokingly, "You picking on little kids, Nick?" (or whatever his name is-- he seemed to be known by and know a lot of his customers by name).
And then Nick or whatever his name is says, in a voice loud enough for every person in the restaurant to hear, "No, I don't want him to hurt himself, because you get these people in here, they don't watch their kids, the kid gets hurt, I get a lawsuit. These parents, they don't watch their kids, y'know?"
Now Nick or whatever his name is may think he's an amusingly crusty character, beloved by all who come in. But somewhere along the way he crossed the line from amusingly crusty into being one of those loudmouth SOBs who thinks his business is a talk radio show and he's required to have a loud opinion on everything.
So Nick or whatever, I gotta tell you. You may know all your old customers. But shooting off your fat mouth in public and trash-talking someone who just paid you money and is sitting right there just cost you a new one.