Dad tries to squeeze his way in to the popular table

features@islandpacket.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Not that it's a high standard to hit, but my 9-year-old is far, far more popular than I am these days.

We'll go out to eat and it'll be shocking, heartening and marvelously depressing how many more people he knows than I do. This is partly to be expected, because I work at home, am unfriendly and growl a lot, whereas the 9-year-old is outgoing, gregarious and doesn't have to take care of a 9-year-old at a restaurant, which must be AWESOME.

It has taken my son just under a decade to get to a place where he can walk into a room and achieve the kind of greetings I wouldn't get at Christmas at my grandma's house. But of course the 9-year-old, being a 9-year-old who is 9, greets them back with four-tenths of a second of eye contact and a mostly audible "hrumpfh," which is the noise that fourth-graders make when they're embarrassed to say hi to people. (It's also the noise 38-year-olds make in the same situation, although we can pretend to have just received a very important text message.)

Most recently it happened last week, when we ambled into a local franchise whose name I'm not allowed to mention, though it involves grilling things, it's from the New Mexico/Arizona region and it's name rhymes with "Moe's," wait damn it I think I screwed this up.

Anyway, as usual there's me, carrying a 2-year-old whose nose is pressed directly against a game of "Angry Birds Star Wars" on the iPhone. (I let him play this at restaurants because that way I can "eat the food," which is a delightful benefit to eating at restaurants.) And within 12 seconds the boy is off mingling with someone in a taekwondo uniform and a friend from the swim team. And within 24 seconds they're all back at the table, embroiled in one of those conversations among grade-schoolers that makes perfect sense if you're a grade-schooler and sounds like the technical schematics of the Starship Enterprise in Farsi if you're not. Naturally they were talking about Minecraft, so it was all such seemingly accurate sentences as:

"I'm building a huge underground cavern."

"Mine is the world's biggest roller coaster that goes over lava."

"I know how to dye sheep!" (See, this is the thing about Minecraft, it's a phenomenally popular and demographic border-crossing video game in which participants complete such exciting tasks as dyeing sheep. This particular sheep, I am told, has been dyed yellow, which is apparently a very good color to be in the Minecraft world, but a very bad color to be if you're in the real world. Also, according to taekwondo friend, dyed sheep can be killed and their wool used to make beds, putting me in the awkward position of wishing these kids played "Grand Theft Auto" because at least that game makes sense and doesn't require offing brightly colored animals for the purposes of developing bedding.)

There was also some discussion about TNT blocks, which, if you're wondering, are red and say TNT on them. I actually asked the table what a TNT block looked like, and the resultant look from everyone would have made you think I just sprouted a second head, and that head was singing Captain and Tennille songs. "They have fuses," my son added, as if to cement his humiliation at my asking an uninformed question about digitized explosives.

Jeez, at this rate he'll never bring me along to restaurants again.

Jeff Vrabel does not suggest building things out of TNT blocks. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com and followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.

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