Friday, January 27, 2006

Father Fridays: Now Paging, Dad

My Mom and Dad hardly EVER did anything without the kids, especially recreational things. Mostly, I think it was because they were afraid of what would happen in their absence (fires, broken bones, lawsuits, etc.), and my brother and sister and I weren't all that good at dispelling those fears. One of my Dad's biggest fears was leaving his restaurant in the hands of others. From the time he bought the business (at 19), he worked open to close--10am - 10pm.

So when Mom and Dad decided they were going to attend a Rockets game at the Houston Summit arena (now the Compaq Center) without the kids, it was a BIG deal. The plan was that he would take the night off from work and my brother (17 or 18 years old then) would manage the restaurant in his absence. This was also a BIG deal. Poor John, I can only imagine the intense grilling (pardon the restaurant pun) he got on how to do things in his absence.

Dad: [To my brother] Be sure no one stands around. Keep everyone working and cleaning. Don't let anything out the door you wouldn't eat yourself. Don't forget to turn the Open sign off, and lock the safe and the walk-in, and turn off the grills and deep-frys, etc., etc.

Like many overly controlling managers/owners, my Dad rarely delegated important tasks. The net effect was that his employees weren't all that experienced with what to do in a crisis, or even a perceived one. If things got rough, Dad handled it. His management style was somewhat akin to "just do what I say, and everything will be fine." Everyone did. Unless, of course, he wasn't around.

Scene: Houston Summit Arena. Summer, 1978. Just after the start of the second half.

Dad: [Munching popcorn]. Woah!! Did you see that move?
Mom: Gimme the binoculars, I can't see.

Dad: I can't, they're around my neck and I'll spill everything.
Mom: Well lemme peek anyway. [She leans over and peers through then while around his neck].
Dad: Honey, can't you just wait a minute, we look ridiculous.
Mom: Well I wanna loo...

Overhead Announcer [Over the Summit PA system--the same one the game announcer uses] [In a LOUD billowing voice]: Paging Mr. Michael _____. Please report immediately to the nearest emergency phone. Mr. Michael _____. Please report immediately to the nearest emergency phone.

Dad: Did you hear that?
Mom: Oh my god, something's happened to one of the kids.
Dad: You think that's really for us?
Mom: It has to be. Let's go, HURRY!
Dad: Oh Jesus.

Panicked, they gather their belongings, leave the food behind, and ran up the stairs to the exit. They frantically search to try to find the nearest phone. I can only imagine the thoughts that were going through his head (Someone's dead, someone crashed their car into the business, the house is on fire). After an excrutiatingly long 30 seconds, an usher points them to a small red phone on the wall.

Dad: [On phone]. Yes, yes, operator. [Breathing heavily]. I am Michael _____, I think I have an emergency page.
Operator: Yes, Mr. ____ I have your son John on hold.
Dad: [To Mom]. It's John, something's gone wrong at work.
Mom: [Clinging to his arm, in tears. Trying to listen into the phone's receiver]. Oh God. Oh my God.
Operator: Connecting you now, please hold. [Clicks].
Dad: John? Oh my God, what's wrong? Is everyone OK?
John: Well, not really.
Mom: Oh my God.
Dad: What's wrong? What's wrong?

John: Well, we just ran out of small hamburger buns.

It was then, our fate as trustworthy children was sealed.


At 8:02 PM, Blogger KipEsquire said...

I still can't bring myself to hire an apartment/dog sitter. Too paranoid. So Diamond winds up in the kennel. :-(


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