Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No-Kids-Zone Movement: Momentum Builds To Silence Crybabies

So while you have every right to be annoyed by (the overblown hazards of) second-hand smoke, I am just as irritated by screaming, crying, cranky babies and manic out-of-control toddlers. Fact of life.

No doubt, there are times when infants are just going to cry—nothing that a little Jack Daniels on the gums can't cure, if you ask me—but there are as many instances where bad parents let their darling precious ones gambol screaming through subway cars, stores and zig-zag all over the sidewalk.

No, you silly geese, just because you decided to spawn and spurn the population, you do not have the right to ignore common courtesy for those of us who don't share the belief that kids rule the world.

Apparently, I am hardly alone, as a growing force field is mounting around the world to get a grip on annoying brats that hijack the very air we breathe. In June, Malaysia Airlines announced a "baby ban" in first class on its A380 super-jumbo and 747 flights. The long-haul carrier said it received too many complaints from passengers that screaming babies made it impossible to sleep. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are considering similar policies.

Consumers are all for it, too: Fare comparison webbie Skyscanner found that 60% of travelers would love it if airlines dedicated a families-with-children section on planes.

Earlier this year, I reported Pittsburgh-area restaurant McDain's banning of kids under 6—which became a heralded national symbol for the no-kids-zone movement. After owner Mike Vuick received countless complaints about crying kids, he reasoned "McDain's is not a place for young children. Their volume can't be controlled and they disturb customers. (It is the) height of being impolite and selfish."

Likewise, the Olde Salty restaurant in Carolina Beach, N.C., posted signage that states "Screaming Children Will Not Be Tolerated!" Restaurant owner Brenda Arms told NBC that the message has been great for business: "It has brought in more customers than it has ever kept away."

Now the brat alert is spreading to movie theaters, grocery stores, vacation spots and more. The U.K.'s Vue Cinemas instituted over-18 screenings for the latest Harry Potter flick, while in Texas, a movie chain banned kids under 6 except on specified "baby days." This summer, Whole Foods in Missouri offered child-free shopping hours, where childcare service is available for parents who want to shop without their bombastic tykes. 

Here in Brooklyn, Union Hall bar attempted to ban strollers—a daily horror for any urban dweller trying no navigate this already crowded city. Even better, Double Windsor bar in BK forbids babies after 5 p.m. Frankly, I don't believe anyone under 18 should be allowed in pubs: It is the one destination grown-ups have been able to call their own, at least in the U.S.

Adweek's Robert Klara wrote, "Brat bans could well be the next frontier in destination and leisure-product marketing," pointing to Leavethembehind.com, a travel site for kid-free vacations, with a massive list of yoga retreats, luxury resorts and bargain hotels around the world that ban kids.

On Travel & Leisure's blog, Charlotte Savino added, "Call me a grinch, a misanthrope, a DINK (dual-income-no-kids) or the anti-cute-police, but I hate ill-behaved children/infants/screaming banshees in upscale restaurants."

Bottom line: Dr. Susan Bartell, a psychologist specializing in parenting issues, notes that parents need to realize that when they take their children in public, it's their responsibility to make sure the kids' behavior doesn't adversely affect other people. Amen to that.