In Eastern Promise (EP) we now have a playroom for kids. During recent trips to New Zealand and Australia I noticed a lot of pubs and restaurant that have this facility, to the great relief of parents of young children. Except for the fast food chains like Mc Donalds, in Jakarta you just cannot go to a restaurant and sit relaxed if you have kids. So ‘hip hip hooray!’ we now have a playroom in EP! The first time I brought my young kids in there, they were excited and after a few minutes guarding them play, I was relieved I could sit down without worry in the restaurant and eat my food and drink a wine. Ah, what the hell. I was so happy with this ‘break’ from the normal ‘keep them under control’ efforts, that I ordered a bottle of wine!
Not long after I had my first sip of wine, a couple walked into the restaurant. I had my back to the playroom and had full view of every person that walked in. I observed the couple. The guy sounded cockney British and looked in all directions, while pointing left and right in excitement. It was obvious for me that it was his first time. His Indonesian girlfriend or wife had been in EP before. I recognised her and she recognised me. But with so many of them from my earlier Jakarta nightlife years, it was just a silent nod of mutual recognition. She pointed to a table in front of me and seated herself with her back to me. Her partner seated across the table from her. I sipped from my wine and was about to check out the kids again in the room behind me.
Suddenly the man stood up with a pointing finger. “WHAAAT!?” he said in a loud and surprised voice. “Can you believe that!?” For a moment I thought he was aiming at me, but then I realised he pointed in the direction of the playroom. His female partner was probably used already to his enthusiastic outbursts, and reacted slowly. She turned her head around. The guy continued, “They have a playroom for kids in a bar? Crazy! So the parents can dump their kids and get drunk themselves!? How terrible!”
I was frozen at my table with the glass of red in my hand. An instant feeling of shame came over me and I tried to hide behind my wine glass. The Indonesian girl stared from the playroom at me with sad eyes and let a deep ‘sigh’. “Sit down, honey”, she said while she turned her head around again to look at the menu. The man was still mumbling, “…unbelievable”, while he slowly fell back into his chair.
My instant feeling of guilt changed into an internal, “Wait a moment. I am not here to get drunk. I am here to enjoy some food while I do not have to watch my kids.” But somehow I did not speak out. I could counter the guy, but I did not want to embarrass the poor girl who did not seem to boil over of love for her partner. I mean, maybe she was, but she certainly was not showing it. So I decided to stay anonymous and lifted a Jakarta Expat tabloid high up to block my view.
But the man had spotted me. He bowed forward to his partner and started whispering. I knew it was about me. I knew it, because he kept on looking at me with disgust. I could easily figure out what he said. “He must be one of these! He probably dropped his children there and is now loading himself! Look! He has a whole bottle of red and probably it’s his second because he looks so sleepy already! Terrible.” And although I could not hear what he really said, it must have been pretty close, as the girl shook her face in denial. Now she whispered something. And also her reaction I tried to analyse. She probably said, “No! I know the guy. He has no children. He often goes to that area with all the bars.” The guy helped her with her loss of memory. “Blok M?” The girl confirmed his answer. He fell back in the chair with a “Woooow….”, but still kept staring at me.
Not sure if I should be happy to be recognised as somebody who doesn’t drop his children to get drunk, but instead as a regular Blok M visitor, I continued my wine. Then suddenly the wooden doors of the playroom swung open with a loud bang. There stood my two-year old son, shouting loud, “PAPA! LOOK!” I froze with the glass still to my lips. The couple stopped with ordering food and both looked from my son to me, and back and forth again. I slowly turned around. Yde was holding up a tiny plastic wine glass from a dollhouse. “CHEEEERSS!” he shouted and then hurried himself back in the room to play. Then there was silence.
I turned to the couple and a bit sheepish, I raised my glass to them. “Cheers”, I said dry. They didn’t say anything in return, although the girl had a slight grin of sympathy. Next time you see me in the EP with a bottle of wine, it will not be in front of the playroom.