I noticed the above receipt currently making the rounds on the Internet because it was generated by one of my favorite bars. Friendly’s is where Graham and I had our goodbye get-together, and where we told people to show up if they wanted to see us when we were in St. Louis for a few short days. It’s a relatively new bar for Graham, if only because he hasn’t been going there since he was four years old. Like me.
My grandfather started taking me there when I was a kid. He’d been in Korea with the owner, who eventually bought a bar and ran his bookie business out of it. In addition to the regular bar stuff, I mean. A lot of people think it’s weird for small children to be in a bar, to which I say two things:
1. You’re right, it is.
2. Ehhhh, that depends.
I’ve been going to bars for a very long time, partially because my family includes a lot of alcoholics and partially because in St. Louis, specifically in South City, bars are a way of life. When I explain it to people in Seattle, I say that when people here go to a bar, they do it to get wasted. Like, stumbling blackout puke-in-public wasted. Which is fine. That’s the purpose of most bars. But in St. Louis, bars are something more. It’s a famous-ish saying that St. Louis has a bar or church on every corner, and that’s very nearly true. Bars aren’t just places to get shithammered. I mean, you can and are encouraged to do that, but also, they’re places to see your friends. To catch up with your neighbors. To keep in touch with people you haven’t seen in years even though they still live around here, somewhere. You know Cheers from Cheers? Delores’ Bar in The Wire? Moe’s in The Simpsons? Those are St. Louis-style bars. They’re places where sometimes people bring kids, or where they used to bring their kids before their kids became assholes.
One of the reasons I know how to behave in bars as an adult is because I learned from the pros. Career drinkers, WWII and Korea vets, cynical, tired, and charming-as-hell old dudes who bought me Shirley Temples and taught me to play shuffleboard. One of these men was my grandfather, who not only introduced me to bars but also taught me how to act in regular public, which means he taught me to be quiet, polite, and unobtrusive while he placed bets and got drunk. Again, I know this sounds really fucked up to a lot of people, but clearly it worked out fine for me and I doubt any server ever left “NEEDY FUCKIN’ KID” on my grandfather’s receipt.
Like I said, kids have changed. Where it was once expected of children to sit down, shut up, and act like a future adult human being while in a business establishment, today’s children are generally indulged with kiddie menus, crayon place settings, and the choice of eight hundred million variations of sauce on the side. And fine, you know, that’s fine, I’m sure that if I had kids I would appreciate this kind of attitude. If I were in a kid-friendly place, I mean. Such as Applebee’s. Or McDonald’s. But just as kids have changed over the years, Friendly’s has changed, too. It was once a place where a guy could take his granddaughter for a few hours. Then it became an actual restaurant, at least on one side. But since then and for many years now, it’s been a bar. That is, a place where drinking alcohol is the primary concern, and if you’re hungry, you can choose from an assortment of fried foods specifically designed to go well with alcohol. There are games, pull tab machines, and filthy bathrooms. It is no longer a place for kids.
I would expect someone with kids to know this, or at least do some research on Yelp before taking their kids to eat there. I would also expect someone who is apparently comfortable taking their kids to bars to understand that people who work in bars typically prioritize those who are drinking alcohol over those who have nary an alcohol beverage on their receipt because their time was spent choosing from a variety of dipping sauces and plate configurations to appease their children.
While I would not expect a server to put “NEEDY FUCKIN’ KIDS” on a receipt that they knew the customer would eventually see (and before they were tipped, especially), as someone who has worked in bars and waited tables, I do understand the impulse, and I have a hard time buying that a parent whose children pushed a server that fucking far would display such angry disbelief at the situation that they’d contact the local media. I mean, I’m mortified when my adult friends can’t figure out how to split the check at the end of the night, I can’t imagine the humiliation I’d feel if my bratty kid threw a tantrum that required such specific instructions for their shitty food.
Hey, fuckhead, guess what? Your kids are fuckheads, too. How about you quit bringing your fuckhead kids to bars and demanding the same kind of service you’d get at Red Robin or Ultimate Pizza or wherever your family goes to listen to other kids scream and tramp around in pee-smelling tube gyms? Or better, how about you keep your fuckhead kids at home and cook them a meal your fucking self, because obviously they require far more attention than a server or line cook in a busy bar is capable of providing, and you know that only you can cut up their hot dogs and chicken fingers just so, anyway. Most importantly, how about you quit whining to the fucking press about what a fuckheaded family you have, because neither you nor your children seem to understand how to act in public?