Four of my family members recently dined at a restaurant chain in the Tri-County area. I attended a wedding and could not join them.
The dinner turned out to be one I’m glad I missed—at least the start of it. A man with six sons—aged 8 and under—waited to be seated ahead of my family. When the host approached the young dad, the manager intervened.
“I’m sorry we can only sit six to a table,” said the manager.
“But these are my children,” said the father.
“We can only sit six to a table,” repeated the manager.
The man shook his head, and said, “Let’s go, boys. We can’t eat here.”
Before anyone criticizes the father for having half a dozen children, remember that in free America, he and his wife can choose to parent as many children as they desire.
And there are seven children, not six. My family discovered later that the man’s wife had traveled out of town with their newborn daughter to see to the needs of her ailing mother. Thus, the reason her husband found himself in the position to fend for six young boys.
When my brother shared this story with me, I realized the young family had been what I now call “Covided.” I also knew that the state of WV had not imposed a six-to-a-table limit on dining establishments. Nor was the restriction mandated by that particular county. A quick call to an independently owned restaurant located nearby confirmed that fact.
Later, I learned that the particular chain had enacted the six per table rule for all of its restaurants. And while I realize COVID-19 is real, and I respect individual comfort levels, I am also aware that the virus has a survival rate of 99.99% for those under age 40. For those 60 and over who are not residents of nursing homes, it’s 98.29%.
I am one who believes it is as safe to eat in restaurants as it is to shop at grocery stores and supercenters. Think about it. Not their faults, but it is impossible for grocery store and supercenter employees to sanitize items that have been picked up and put back on shelves. They cannot possibly police social distancing within aisles.
At a restaurant, I sit at my own clean, private table with friends or family—no chance of bumping into a stranger. We eat food prepared by the same kitchen staff that takes care of us when we order take-out. We finish our meal, hand-sanitize if we so desire, pay our bill, and leave.
Restaurants have the right to limit table seating. I get that. But carrying out that rule to the point of turning away a family or separating a parent from his minor children is inexcusable. How does such an act defend against COVID?
An interesting twist: the rules denied the family the right to dine together, but the restaurant allowed two minor children to sit with strangers. In this case, it was a good thing. Before the family made their exit, my brother stepped in.
“We would love to have two of your boys sit with us,” said Gerald to the young father. Then, he turned to the manager, and said, “Please place our table near his.”
When the two families took their seats, the young father stood in the social distance between the two tables and gave a blessing. At some point, Gerald sneaked off and bought chocolate chip cookies for the boys. Meanwhile, the young father slipped away and paid the bill—for both families.
My brother and the young dad handled the situation with tact and grace when I may have let anger get in my way. As I said, good thing I was at a wedding.
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