The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

A Blanket

Jodi and I have a favorite Saturday breakfast place: Stacks, in Menlo Park. Yesterday, we got the corner table on the back terrace, which gave us lots of fresh air and sunshine to enjoy alongside breakfast. Behind us was a father and his little girl. She was probably about 5-7 years old, sitting in a little blanket with her shoulders barely above the table. Jodi and I were then treated to a real horror show – the modern equivalence of child neglect. Workaholic neglect.

The little girl had a big plate with a pancake on it, and the dad had pretty much the same in front of him. Dad was on the phone. In fact, never once did we hear him exchange a word over breakfast with his daughter. He was carrying on three conversations at once, switching between phone calls rapid fire. It was clear that he brought his work with him, to the neglect of his daughter.

I had my back mostly to this scene, though they were only a foot away from me. I could hear the dad talking, and talking, and talking – the more it continued, the angrier I got. Jodi was actually forced to watch all of this. She said that the little girl was having trouble eating, because the pancake wasn’t cut into smaller pieces. But minutes passed while she played at her uncut food until dad finally noticed. He stood and cut it up for her, still yammering away on his phone.

Eventually, dad wolfed his food down in between random loud-mouthing on his business calls, finishing his food well ahead of his daughter. Soon, they got up to leave. This was the saddest part. The woolly blanket that she’d been sitting in got left behind. She forgot it, and what was worse: dad never noticed. We didn’t notice until minutes after they left, when I turned around to see if they were totally gone yet. Jodi and I haven’t been able to stop chattering about this. Maybe this was an isolated incident. One might even argue it’s none of our business. But when you bring that kind of 21st century child neglect into a public forum, it is all of our business. I doubt it was isolated; when I bring work home, I do it more than once in a great while. But I’ll tell you this: if I had the chance to sit outside on a beautiful morning with my child, I would sure as hell talk to her.