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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Childhood's End


There are innumerable things that children misjudge, misunderstand, misstate, and misinterpret, often with humorous or hilarious results. If you have never seen Kids Say the Darndest Things, hosted by Art Linkletter, I would highly recommend viewing this classic TV show which ran 27 years. On it, Linkletter interviewed more than 23,000 children from all strata of society, with some of the most outrageously funny yet innocent commentaries on countless subjects.

However, this worldly naivete is not the exclusive domain of children. I knew a young boy who grew up outside the city and had a very sheltered youth, with no exposure to many things so common in the city. Coming to New York City was a profound culture shock in many ways. He was unfamiliar with things such as bagels, delis, Yiddish, con artists, greasy spoons, subways, and skyscrapers. Virtually everything was foreign.

There are many things in business done the same way for good reason or due to custom, usually for both. Some of the reasons are easy to guess, others not so easy, and others could perhaps have a number of reasonable explanations. And the lack of life experience and imaginative mind of a child can improvise some crazy explanations.

Eating in restaurants was a rarity for my family and consisted of the occasional fast food place or, once in a while, a trip all the way to the famed Chicken Coop in Hartford, CT. Growing up out of the city, I never once was privy to seeing a restaurant after closing, so when I first arrived in New York City, the night time ritual of chairs being inverted and left on table tops was quite new to me and puzzling.

It may or may not have occurred to me that these chairs were placed this way for cleaning, but I had never witnessed such an event. And what really puzzled me was why they would be left like this all night long. With the naivete and wild imagination of a child, I mused that there was another reason, finally concluding that it must be to keep something from crawling up the legs of the chairs, making their way to the table tops.That had to be rats or mice. Most restaurant tables had center pedestals, so without the use of chairs, mice or rats would need to crawl upside down under the table top to complete their journey to the top itself. I was satisfied with this explanation for some time until I finally witnessed floor mopping.

Although I am still no stranger to foolishness, that was perhaps the last foolish thing that I believed with childlike naiveté. It ended as part of my ongoing education in the university of life known as New York City. When I see chair legs upright on tables at night in the darkened light, I can't help but think of childhood's end...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting!
Curious boy, really, you were! :)

riga.in said...

We used to at school as well. Everybody had to put his chair on table before leaving the class ;)