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who's sorry now
an open letter of apology
by al brouilette

Last week, I supervised a baby for an afternoon, because everyone else on earth more qualified to do so was attending a bridal shower. (Remember how Harold T. Stone became a judge? Like that.) My niece is a year old, and is not yet capable of functioning without assistance, so I was assigned to be her aide de camp for a full four hours. At some point during my period of profoundest responsibility, my mother - she was there too, though I am certain by mere coincidence and not because I refuse to change poopy diapers — decided that we should go to Panera Bread for lunch. Panera Bread is roughly two hundred yards from my mother’s house. I grabbed my jacket and asked what she wanted. She said, “We’ll all go.”

I didn’t see any point in all three of us going to Panera, but didn’t feel like arguing, so I picked up the baby and opened the door. My mother said “Aren’t you going to put a jacket on her?”, launching a process that ended thirty minutes later with four toys, two blankets, a green knit sweater that was once mine and made my neck itch just looking at it, a refreshed sippy cup, a hat, a jacket, and the stroller. It took more time to get out of the house with the child than it would have for me to walk to Panera, order sandwiches, do the Sunday crossword puzzle, and walk home. There is clearly no good reason to leave the house with a baby unless you are taking it to a medical person.

We eventually got to Panera, ordered, got our food, remarked sourly on the irony of a place with the word “bread” on the sign running out of butter, and sat down at a table. Reconfiguring a table for that big bitch - the stroller, I mean, it’s like a cut-down Ford Galaxy - was annoying enough, but then the child went on stage. She has learned to say “Hi”, in both voice and proper context, and she knows maybe one or two other words. So she has a lot of conversations like this: “Hi!” “Hi, baby!” “Hi!” “Aren’t you big!” “Hi!” “What’s your name?” “Hi!” “Uh, hi. That’s a cute duck.” “Hi!” “Look, I gotta go.”

She also knows - accurately - that she’s cute, and so she tries to get EVERYONE’s attention, to say “Hi.” And if they don’t look at her, she gets pissed, and can communicate “HEY, ASSHOLE! QUIT SHOVELING THAT TORN-UP BREAD BOWL INTO YOUR GAPING PIEHOLE AND LOOK AT ME. ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME, MOTHERFUCKER? I’M DROPPING CUTE ALL UP IN HERE! LOOK, BITCH!” entirely with the word “Hi!”. And if she can grab you on your way past, she will. And she will say “Hi!” And you better fucking smile and say “Awww” or she might cut you.

There is a game that she plays, called “Uh Oh”. Let us say that Player A has the serve. Player A drops something - say, a cloth telephone that rings - on the floor, makes eye contact with her partner, Player B, and says “Uh-oh”. (Depending on the level of in-game taunting, some servers will say “Uh-oh” before dropping the item.) Player B then returns serve to Player A, who begins the process anew. I am a disappointing Uh Oh partner. I don’t have the temperament for long volleys.

The last item in the Panera Amusements Trick Bag is the Helen Keller Gambit. Remember the scene with the sausages? In our version, we notice some food we want, so we reach for it and make the pleading-groan noise: “UhhhhhnnnNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNHHHHHHHHHHHHH”. When receiving a bit of the food, we sniff it, touch it to our darling little face, then make a face and discard the morsel. We busy ourself for a moment with something else, then notice some food we want…you see. I am even worse a partner at this than I am at Uh Oh.

I inquired, politely, as to whether or not these sorts of things were typical of a year-old child on an outing, and expressed the opinion that maybe it was more trouble than it was worth. My mother told me, “You used to do all the same things when you were her age. We went out to lunch all the time.”

Not that I am admitting anything, mind you - Mom is prone to exaggeration - but, just to be safe, if you were in a restaurant in Chicago in May of 1975, and there was an adorable brown-eyed toddler in an itchy sweater charming the pants off you and wheedling you to play Uh Oh, I’m terribly sorry. It won’t happen again.


Al is an unemployed shiftless layabout with a laptop. He occasionally contributes to the Keys Network, which is linked somewhere nearby. He divides his pointlessness between Chicago and Key West. He is tall. And a mammal. He is also typing this late at night after a cocktail or two, so he is not exactly swimming in appropriate details about himself right now. But he does love to write about himself in the third person.

more about al brouilette


personal growth
how it came to pass that i got fat.
by al brouilette
topic: humor
published: 1.20.06

"if you ladies leave my island...."
by al brouilette
topic: humor
published: 12.13.05


lisa r
4.13.06 @ 10:04a

This might make you feel better. My friend has 10-month old triplets. Think of engaging in the same activities for hours on end times 3.

She's taking them to a birthday party this weekend. I'm going along as assistant baby wrangler. You had it easy.

tracey kelley
4.13.06 @ 11:32a

Heh heh heh - this is hysterical.

robert melos
4.14.06 @ 4:01a

These are all the reasons I choose not to have children. Okay, being single and gay also factor in, but the maintenance level is more than I want.

sandra thompson
4.14.06 @ 9:21a

Al, you just don't understand the whole educational impact of taking the baby out into the real world. It might not have seemed as if she were learning any socialization skills, but, trust me, she learned something. The problem with all educational programs is that the little cuties don't always learn what we had in mind to teach them. That's why in the next few years of your contact with that cute little niece you'll have to WATCH YOUR MOUTH. She's a congenital parrot who firmly believes her cuteness factor is raised to at least the tenth power by repeating all the words you did not mean for her to learn. She knows instinctively which words these are. You only need to say the "f" word or the "s" word once, in a whisper, across a very large room, for her to begin trumpeting it to all and sundry, while grinning and batting her eyelashes. Awwwwww!

lisa r
4.14.06 @ 10:36a

The "Uh-oh" game is unique in a toddler's life. It's the only game they learn the rules to before they learn the name. And they can last longer at it than two top-seeded tennis players in a championship match.

robert melos
4.18.06 @ 2:53a

I ate in Wendy's today and a family of 7 came in, ranging in age from probably 2 to 13. As the kids began to scream their demands of their parents, or demands in general, I thought of this column then I thought of the phrase I heard so often while growing up. "Children should be seen and not heard." Whatever happened to that?

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