Put me in the annoyance-free section

It wasn't all that long ago that people could smoke in elevators and in movie theaters. They smoked in restaurants, on buses and in doctors' waiting rooms.

Unless you were under an oxygen tent, you could even smoke in hospitals. Even then, people under oxygen tents used to sneak cigarettes, which usually had a bad, but not entirely unexpected, outcome. Now you can't even smoke in the hospital parking lot, much less the hospital itself. Some prisons have banned smoking on Death Row -- not so much for the prisoners' benefit, but for the guards'.

There used to be smoking sections on airplanes. Now the entire terminal is smoke-free. Unless your plane is on fire. Taking a vacation to a distant land is now a good first step to quitting cigarettes: A nice, long, 10-hour nonsmoking flight to the Balkans ought to break anyone's smoking habit. Of course, when you arrive, you'll find out that everyone there smokes.



Here in the U.S., smoking has been banned almost everywhere. But other things that are just as annoying as secondhand cigarette smoke have not been banned. Children running around like crazy in restaurants, for one -- why hasn't that been banned?

There was a big story recently about a restaurant owner who told a child to be quiet after 40 minutes of crying. Some people thought the owner was out of line. I think her mistake was letting the child in her restaurant in the first place.

Why are people taking babies and toddlers to restaurants? I think I was 18 the first time I ever ate in a sit-down, grown-up restaurant. If you can afford to go to a restaurant, you can afford a baby sitter. Why is it that if the kid was smoking, the owner could kick him out, but if he was only screaming and annoying all the other paying customers, she couldn't? Who made up that rule? Oh, yeah: the parents of screaming babies. Just once I'd like to walk into a restaurant and have them ask me if I'd like to sit in the screaming, out-of-control children section or the child-free section.

You see signs on convenience stores all the time that say "No shirt, no shoes, no service." It's not the law, it's just a good idea. I think we could use more "good idea" signs. In addition to all the signs that say "We Check ID" when customers want to buy alcohol or cigarettes, there should be a sign that says, "We Check Your Weight" when customers want to buy sausages, bacon, potato chips or ice cream. "Must weigh under 300 pounds."

If we can have smoke-free restaurants, why not combover-free restaurants? How many meals have been spoiled by having to look at some guy with three little bits of yard-long hair wrapped across his bald spot while you're trying to eat?

Why can't we have a cellphone section and a non-cellphone section? Or, they should ask me if I want to sit in the section where the server is not allowed to tell me their name and that they'll be my server tonight. I won't remember their name, and usually they don't end up being my server anyway.

But I see some restaurants are starting to offer special sections. Why, only last week, one place told me that their "5 percent tip section" was full, and they would have to seat me in the "20 percent" section. I couldn't tell the difference, except that for the first time, I had the same server for the entire meal. I can't for the life of me figure out why more restaurants don't do that.

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