Our neighborhood supermarket posts a sign saying that no skating is allowed in the store, including the kind of skating that is done by people wearing wheeled sneakers. A liquor store we've been in once or twice displays a notice that no sale will be made while the would-be buyer is talking on the phone. Our favorite bookstore does not allow cell phones inside; a note on the front door so advises.
Why are such signs needed? There was a very wise comment in the newspaper the other day, attributed to James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University:
“If anything characterizes the 21st century, it's our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people.”
He was talking about specifically cell phones, and the availability of a new cell phone jammer. If you have one of these jammers, and you're offended by the loud and inane conversation of a nearby cell phone user, you simply push a button and the boor's phone is silenced. So are all other cell phones within a 30-foot radius, even those being used more or less responsibly.
“The cell-phone talker thinks his rights go above that of people around him,” Katz says, “and the jammer thinks his are the more important rights.”
Every 21st-century driver thinks that his right to drive the way he wants exceeds all other drivers' rights. The person who likes to talk during a movie will not quiet down when asked; more likely, he'll talk louder.
The Observer deplores all this, of course. Think of others, we say. Life is more pleasant when people conduct themselves as ladies and gentlemen.
And if we happen to acquire one of those jammers, we promise we'll use it only for good, like Superman uses his powers.
The writer of a review of Bennigan's restaurant in last week's Arkansas Times reminisced about drowning his grief over a failed car inspection in a couple of schooners of cold draft beer. That sweet memory provoked another, from a woman who waited tables at the old Bennigan's, at the corner of University and Markham Streets.
“I worked there from 1979 to 1982 (torched 2X during that period by somebody from the Wine Cellar or Checkmate, or both, I forget). I was between husbands and for all practical purposes, between lives.
“We were THE consistent local spot for disco and night life. Tramps had run its course; Tracks End had just about done the same. I waited tables with the idea of returning to and finishing college at UALR. I lasted less than a semester in college (women's studies) but stayed 2 1/2 years at Bennigan's. Ended up an assistant manager before I came to my senses. Nobody in that kind of restaurant business ages well.
“But I loved the food and waiting tables and tending bar ... and finished sowing my wild oats with the incredibly wacky and wonderful wait staff.
“So many stories to tell often or never tell at all. One of my favorites being the typical little old ladies who would show up around 11 on Saturday for Quiche and Salad brunch, and afterwards they'd head to then-thriving University Mall or Park Plaza ... I always asked if they wanted a glass of white wine with their brunch, and I would wait patiently as they discussed back-and-forth for what seemed like minutes whether or not they should order a glass of wine so early in the day ... then they'd both order a martini chilled and up, two olives.
“And I met Bill Clinton for the first time in the 1980 campaign. He came by and did what he and David Pryor do best, start with the kitchen crew and work their way to the front of the house.
“And I threw Roger Clinton out one night.
“When we introduced steak fingers to the menu, the steak fingers had arrived in time for launch day but the country gravy had not (pre-mixed; frozen so it would be consistent from restaurant to restaurant). Country girl that I was/am, I made country cream sausage gravy (lots of black pepper of course) for the steak finger launch. It was better 'n good.
“On War Memorial game days we usually broke company records. Folks would be lined up down the ramp into the parking lot. We also broke state law I'm sure by serving beer in plastic cups to anxious, waiting customers/fans, and we made a fortune in tips. So many stories ... few regrets.
“I make Ultimate Nachos to this day.”