Recently I needed to grab lunch before a medical appointment in Sherwood Park. I chose Opa! in the Emerald Hills shopping complex. I don’t know the exact time because it seems I was running an hour off. None of my watches or the clock in the Venza had ’fallen back!’ Oops.
I yanked the door open and was assaulted by noise and a crowd like I’ve never seen in any of these locations. I stopped in the doorway to consider entering or choosing another place. The cashier greeted me from her post and encouraged me to enter. There were a few seats available. I placed my order; braved a crowd to get my drink and cutlery.
I saw and heard a gaggle of teenagers. They’d literally taken over the restaurant with their numbers and noise. Out of a possible thirty-eight seats, kids occupied twenty-five. Plus others loitering or coming and going. Incidentally no one wore a poppy.
Then I noticed how many of them were chowing down on home lunches or takeout from Edo next door. As a former business owner and someone with a touch of common sense, I was flabbergasted. You don’t do that. It hurts the business owner.
I cringed inside when one flipped the bird (with each hand) to someone outside. There were kids who just came in and hovered near the door, though perhaps the kid in shorts in November needed to warm up.
I tried really hard not to be the cranky old lady. I said nothing. I remembered being a teenager. I raised two teenagers. I’ve got grandsons who will one day be teens. Most teenagers do dumb things. Loudly. (I know I did.) They move and think in packs. They can be intimidating. Hormones are a driver; boy-girl interactions are a minefield. That most of us survive our teen years is more a result of divine luck than any smart actions on our part. I get all that.
After they headed back to the high school across the street the joint is silent and I’m the only customer. I watched an employee right the place. She re-positioned the chairs and four or five tables that got pushed together. She carried away garbage left on the table. She wiped everything down. Then she swept up all the fries on the floor.
I asked her how and why they put up with this. Why do they allow outside food? Are they aware paying customers may turn away? She gave me the business’ take on this. They only ask them to leave if there aren’t any seats left. Most kids buy at least fries or a drink so they overlook the brought-in food. Getting heavy-handed could attract vandalism. This woman, the one cleaning up after these kids, was a dentist in India who is now getting her credentials to practice here. Isn’t there some irony in that? Who should have taught these young people better behaviour, parents or the school that is a neighbour to these businesses? More questions than answers, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.