Crying shame

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 August, 2009, 12:00am

There was a fellow who once quipped that 'being punctual is a question of guessing how late the other chap is going to be'. Personally, I hate being late, which is why, last week, I was sat in a grand hotel's expensive cafe waiting for a tardy acquaintance to arrive. Normally, this would have been a chance to relax or read. However, a set of neophyte parents arrived with their baby, who proceeded to scream for the next 30 minutes.

Now, I understand that being a new parent is not easy but surely some basic rules of etiquette should apply when it comes to bringing the ear-shredding shrieks of infancy into an adult setting. By all means attempt to pacify the child for five - nay, even 10 - minutes with bottles, rocking, toys, cooing, making silly faces and so on. But once the 10-minute mark has been breached, you have to leave and give everyone else a break. Do not sit back with inane grins - as this couple did - seeming for all the world as though the other patrons should be happy to pay through the nose for tea and cakes to the tune of the wee bairn's discordant symphony.

I propose a new set of etiquette procedures for restaurants: between zero and 10 minutes other diners put up with the noise (we were all babies once); between 10 and 15 minutes waiters are permitted to form a circle around the table and scowl; after 15 minutes other patrons may throw bread rolls; and at 20 minutes, the baby must be removed and put up for adoption.

I can't imagine anyone will disagree.