Monday, August 25, 2014


        Some people talk too loud in public places.
        My wife Margie insisted our children use what she called their “restaurant voices,” wherever we happened to be dining. It meant projecting our voices just across the table and no further. People in nearby tables or booths would have had to strain hard to eavesdrop on our conversations. Table manners were important to Margie.
        For fifteen years we spent our summer vacations participating in national conferences of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, thirty-one in all. Margie and I and our four children would travel back and forth across the country in our station wagon to Estes Park, Colorado, and Ashland, Oregon, and wherever else a conference was held throughout those years.
        My parents could never understand how we could enjoy being cooped up in a car with four young children for so many days, but for us those were really happy times. We loved being together in the car, playing games, singing, telling stories, and enjoying the scenery along the way. Believe it or not, there was never any fussing. The children enjoyed each other immensely, and the whole experience was always memorable for them. Staying in a motels was a daily highlight (there had to be a pool, of course!), as was exploring the towns where we spent the night. Often we would go bowling, or play miniature golf, or find an appropriate drive-in movie. The trip itself was our family vacation.

        We did plenty of sight seeing, too, often driving a few miles out of the way to take in a particular place of interest. Every food stop was exciting. I couldn’t begin to count all the restaurants we ate in over the years on those long treks, or how many times other folks would comment on our children’s model behavior. They were anything but the noisy and sometimes fussy children one often encounters on the road. Whenever that happened, one of our children would invariably whisper, “Why don’t they use their restaurant voices?”
        The term became generic, as Margie applied the rule to other public places as well, such as doctor’s or dentists’ waiting rooms, and airplanes, and trains, and libraries, and museums, and anywhere else where other people are likely to be disturbed by loud talking. The other day I was trying to read while waiting to see my dental hygienist, and a young man on the other side of the room was talking so boisterously to his companion that I couldn’t concentrate at all. It was a jarring invasion of my audio space. It was obvious his mother had never taught him to use his restaurant voice.
        Other people in the room were staring at the young man disapprovingly, but that didn't phase him one bit. I was debating whether to ask him to tone it down, when I was happily rescued by the most welcome appearance of Joan, my soft-spoken hygienist, who whisked me out of the waiting room, down the hall, and into her dentist's chair.

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