We’ve all been there: relaxing over Sunday coffee in a lovely little cafe, only to have the peace pierced by the screeching of a baby who clearly doesn’t like the latte.

I'm going to pin this to my wall, LOL. Photo: Herald Sun

So, what to do? Do you politely ask the parents to remove their bawling bundle of joy, or do you suck it up and have your own Sunday ruined by unholy howling.

In Sydney, one cafe goer has sparked a fierce debate by rising up for the silent majority to ask the parents of a screaming baby “to take their child for a walk or find another solution”.

According to the yarn, the cafe goer didn’t do it lightly – the wailing had gone on for 10 long minutes before he decided enough was enough.

It’s fair to say the parents of the screeching child didn’t exactly see it the same way, offering a middle-finger salute and branding the guy a “despicable human being” as they marched indignantly out the door.

Let’s put to one side the debate on whether crying kids should be kicked out of cafes. (And anyway, there is no debate: of course they should be kicked out, if the parents clearly aren’t doing enough to quieten down dear little Bonnie, or – despite every attempt – dear little Bonnie simply can’t be calmed.)

I’m much more interested in the thought processes of people who are so self-absorbed that they can’t appreciate the impact of their actions on everyone around them.

Self-worship has never been more pronounced than it is now. Individuals have never had such conviction about their own importance. People have never spoken so openly about their own feelings about themselves.

In English grammar, we’ve always had the first person (me), the second person (you) and the third person (he, she, it and they).

Almost overnight, we’ve seen the creation of a new third person: myself.  (“I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment,” says Novak Djokovic. “I’m happy with myself if I’m a little heavier,” says Khloe Kardashian.)

Gone are the days when you received, say, a letter in the post from a local real estate agent politely asking for your business when you next sell your home.

Now you get their life story and a fridge magnet photo – like this house seller you’ve never met should be front and centre in the kitchen with your family happy snaps.

This week, I received a simple email request from a random interstate PR company updating its media contact lists.

It started like this: “I’m Stella and I recently moved over from Belgium as a PR intern. Last summer I obtained my master’s degree in Communications and since I always had a passion for travel I decided to pursue a career abroad. For the next couple of months I’ll be assisting with PR activities.”

It’s too simplistic to blame this me-magnification on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter – but I will anyway.

That is, after all, where you’ll now find millions of “selfies” – so-called self-portraits taken on your phone and quickly uploaded to social media.

Sequential selfies are apparently all the rage – a mate recently watched aghast as a stream of Facebook posts were uploaded by a friend in her 40s getting highlights in her hair. Does anyone care? (Well, actually, it generated dozens of “likes”. Go figure.)

Truth is, even the most traditional media – from ABC radio to The Advertiser – now constantly seek our opinions.

Why? To entice us with easy, non-challenging questions to their own websites, so they can increase web traffic and ultimately advertising revenue (or government funding, in the ABC’s case).

Well, OK, more power to the people. It’s a brave new world where all opinions are valid, instead of information flowing just one way, from talking heads like me, for example.

But let’s just hope this new global fascination with naval gazing doesn’t hinder our ability to empathise, or appreciate the needs of others also enjoying a Sunday coffee in the big cafe of life.

That’s what I’ve been telling myself, anyway.

Comments on this post close at 6pm AEST

Most commented


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    • Me Myself and I says:

      05:52am | 27/01/13

      They both could be in trouble with the new anti-discrimination laws.  What happens if they both win damages?  I guess it is just the lawyers who win.

    • Mouse says:

      08:29am | 27/01/13

      My first thoughts too, especially just after reading the Punch PC post today. Some people are just so precious nowadays aren’t they.  Thank goodness there is still a little bit of space left here for the rest of us!!  lol :o)

    • Hank says:

      06:52am | 27/01/13

      In between being a mum to young twin boys, a freelance writer and running her own business, Lainie Anderson somehow finds the time to write a provocative weekly column in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail. She’s a former state political reporter for Melbourne’s Herald Sun and also spent a couple of years at The Times in London. Her favourite question is: “Did you know I’ve run three marathons?”

      Looks like the author is guilty of being a “selfy” as she put it as well.

    • marley says:

      08:02am | 27/01/13

      Nope.  She has provided a standard bio should we be interested.  She’s not forcing us all to read it.

    • Sickemrex says:

      07:37am | 27/01/13

      It’s an existential problem. Cogito ergo sum has devolved into “if someone isn’t noticing me, I’ll simply pop out if existence”. Some do it with selfies, some by pumping out doof doof loud enough to be heard in every room in their neighbour’s house, some by letting their spawn annoy people who aren’t interesed in them.

    • Philosopher says:

      01:35pm | 27/01/13

      ‘It’s an existential problem.’ I agree Sickemrex. And the great existentialist Kierkegaard commented at length on this over 150 years ago: ‘However well-meaning and strong the individual man may be, he still has not the passion to be able to tear himself from the coils and seductive uncertainty of reflection… ours is an age of publicity and advertisement.’ And the offshoot of it is, no-one bothers with the big questions any more.

    • Sickemrex says:

      04:16pm | 27/01/13

      If only everyone behaved as John Stuart Mill wished.

    • Ben says:

      07:47am | 27/01/13

      >Self-worship has never been more pronounced than it is now. Individuals have never had such conviction about their own importance. People have never spoken so openly about their own feelings about themselves.

      Are you sure? Only this morning I was reading an opinion article, and it struck me that, if anything, this bloke with the red bandana was reticent to the point of erring on the side of modesty.

    • Bootsy says:

      08:10am | 27/01/13

      Its relatively easy to deal with.  I own a cafe and have never had any problems with kids, as I ask all the noisy Tarquin’s and Dakota’s and their obnoxious parents to leave if they are disturbing other patrons.  Go to Maccas if you insist on having a decaf soy latte with hazelnut syrup whilst your little turds run amok.  But in my place, and all other places where normal humans congregate, play by the rules or get out.  I have a profitable business that doesn’t get infected with the screams of sprogs who need a good flogging and my patrons love the tranquility.  Parents and grandparents find their kids cute, the rest of society would rather they ventured out when they hit 25.

      As for ‘selfies’, I don’t do facebook, Twitter or this instagram thing, so I never get bothered by self-absorbed posers who think the world is a movie and they are the star.  The domain of narcissists, sycophants, and the lowest IQ.

    • nihonin says:

      08:32am | 27/01/13

      +1 for the first paragraph

      One instant coffee as well thanks.

    • Mack says:

      09:12am | 27/01/13

      Woohoo, I’m with you!!!

    • Daz says:

      09:29am | 27/01/13

      God pay that! It’s the comment of a generation.

      I used to take a different tack. The bitches and dickheads paid for it.  This woman used to come into my shop and let her two little brats run riot. Basically destroy the place. So I simply charged her double and triple for everything. It took her a while but the stupid bitch eventually got the message. Not before she paid for my time though in cleaning and tidying up after her little shits.

    • Ladyjane says:

      09:50am | 27/01/13

      I joined Facebook predominantly for ease of contact with friends overseas and interstate and for that and used wisely, it has been great.

      It’s also opened my eyes regarding some aquaintances and their self-absorption, to the point where I’ve consigned them to history. Why do people think the world wants to see photographs of their breakfast, lunch or dinner? I’ve decided it’s a form of one-upmanship, as in ‘I’m at this fantastic restaurant and you’re not.’ Pathetic, really.

      As for kids in cafes, a lot of that could be easily solved with the provision of a dummy, but Tarquin and Dakota’s parents don’t believe in them.

    • NSS says:

      11:17am | 27/01/13

      “As for ‘selfies’, I don’t do facebook, Twitter or this instagram thing, so I never get bothered by self-absorbed posers who think the world is a movie and they are the star.  The domain of narcissists, sycophants, and the lowest IQ.”

      As the Punch can often be the domain of the self-righteous, rude pedant. People like to communicate, and now have the technology to do so. Shocking, isn’t it? Btw, just exactly how do you know who the denizens are of the dreaded social media if you’ve never “done it”?

      I agree that manners should apply in cafes etc if children do not settle within a reasonable time-frame. However, it appears some owners could do with a lesson or two in humility as well.

    • M. Mouse says:

      11:50am | 27/01/13

      Why do people take their little nightmares to cafes anyway? Oh wait..it’s the “look at me” thing as well!  LIke those “my family” car stickers *ugh*

      At least there is the option in a cafe to get up and leave, though that is unfortunate for the proprietor. Unlike in an aeroplane. Bring on an international airline with a sound proof -container to put them in until dragging under fives around the world long-haul is considered child abuse and made illegal.

    • Iggy Crash says:

      12:20pm | 27/01/13

      I agree with everything except M. mouse’s comment about planes. Infants are always going to need to fly. Yes, it’s uncomfortable but can you please tell me how else a child is supposed to travel? There are lots of reasons too: medical attention, family visits or moving interstate or internationally. I’ve not seen many parents who don’t try to calm their children when flying but just because you say no doesn’t mean a child will listen and be a perfect angel. Even well-disciplined kids play up because (and listen carefully) they are immature.

    • Bootsy says:

      12:28pm | 27/01/13

      @NSS - I don’t need to have eaten exposed chicken to know that it can make you sick, so your argument is redundant. As for cafe owners, we reserve the right to decide the environment in which we operate. If you don’t like it you have right to leave or not come at all. Selfish gronk parents and their shitty spawn will never be welcome in my place. Nor will I take advice from dickheads who have never run a restaurant (insert your photo and name here). So enjoy posting ‘selfies’ and being a flog and I’ll continue running a profitable business with happy paying customers.

    • Philosopher says:

      01:49pm | 27/01/13

      I was mortified when my little boy once broke a little bird statue from a cafe we regularly go to. But the owner was okay because I’m a good customer. However he certainly has a right to make his establishment ‘no kiddies.’ He pays the rent, after all.

    • Chris L says:

      09:10am | 27/01/13

      This article was OK, but there wasn’t enough me.

    • Mouse says:

      01:00pm | 27/01/13

      ChrisL, memememememememememememememememememe
      I know what you are going to reply so youyouyouyouyouyouyouyouyou
      Happy now?  XoD

    • OzTrucker says:

      09:11am | 27/01/13

      It’s not just the cafe. It’s everywhere. The lack of manners and consideration for others is gone and our world is worse for it.

      I take Mrs Trucker to our local league club for tea usually Sunday nights. For some reason the kids seem to be allowed to run amok. The parents just sit there continuing their conversation and not doing anything. Security do nothing. You risk a real confrontation if you say something.

      People sitting in the right or outer lanes doing well below the speed limit just because they can. Sailing blissfully past the keep left signs without a care. If you flash your lights or anything a lot of times you will get the salute. Yes that’s right I’m out here and there is #€>¥ all you can do about it. On this subject I get out in the right lane in my 64 ton B Double and do 100 kph the speed limit btw, and I have idiots go up the inside. When I finally get my overtake done I move back and immediately anyone behind moves up an blocks you in. You can’t get out again, you lose momentum and slow the traffic more. But hey the ass who blocked you in gets away scott free.

      What about the ones in the supermarket. You are wandering down the aisle doing your shopping and peopl will just walk in front of you and stop right there!

      What about the smokers!!! Walk out of the shopping centre through a blue haze. Flicking butts out the windows of their cars. Butts, butts butts everywhere!

      Noisy neighbours with their crap music. I had the young bloke next door cleaning his car with the rap doof doof going flat out. I’m sitting in my back lounge trying to watch the news and I can still hear it. I went out and asked him to turn it up a bit because I couldn’t hear it properly. He gave me the bird.

      Don’t even start me on yappy dogs.

      My father taught me a rule of life. Listen boy he said, if you couldn’t put up with it, don’t make anyone else. A bit like the rule set in stone. Do unto others.

      But it’s just me right. It’s not their fault. It’s a problem because I’m an old fart not because their manners are non existent.

    • I Love Peace says:

      11:08am | 27/01/13

      How very true, Oz Trucker.  And as for dogs, I once politely asked a neighbour, whose dog had been barking solidly for 3 hours straight,if she could quieten her dog (bringing it inside might be a start, but then that would mean it would annoy the owners rather than the neighbours).  Only she didn’t seem to hear “Please would you do something about your barking dog”, oh no, she heard something along the lines of “I want you to decapitate your dog with a screwdriver”.  So I copped a mouthful of abuse, along the lines that I was a dog hater (no, actually I’m a noise hater) finished off with “My dog doesn’t bark, it’s the one next door / down the street / over the back fence”.  Then went back inside, where she was holding a “Bible Studies” class!!

      The ironic thing is that a few years earlier, when her kids were younger, we wouldn’t even mow our lawn after about 7.30pm, as we knew her kids would be trying to get to sleep.

      Don’t know what the answer is, but wouldn’t life be so much better if we all gave a bit of consideration to those around us and how our actions might have an impact on their quality of life.

    • Mouse says:

      11:35am | 27/01/13

      OzTrucker, your Dad sounds like a lovely bloke but nowadays anyone else doesn’t seem to give two flicks about others.  So I had a little thought about what to do about it…...

      “Do unto others…” pfft, that sort of thinking is so old fashioned. I am an independent, free thinking person, who does what I want, when I want. If the world doesn’t bow to me every time I breathe then I have a problem and I don’t care who I upset but everyone will know I have a problem and the world had better bloody hurry up and fix it!  I was not put here on this earth to have to worry about anyone else’s problem, whether I cause them or not. If I do something that upsets you, well deal with it, walk away, but don’t bother me with the fact that you have a problem with it. I have too much going on in my life to worry about anything going on in yours.  Get it? Until then, go suck an egg!  :op

      This seems to be the general attitude today. That’s cool,  just keep living large. Remember though, when life hits you in the nose, don’t bother telling me about it because I will probably have too much going on in my life to have time to listen. Have a nice day.    ;o) (dripping sarc)

    • Sickemrex says:

      11:56am | 27/01/13

      I would think you are me, Oz Trucker, except I’m female and don’t like driving anything bigger than a Navara. Oh and I don’t frequent the local leagues club for dinner as my 3yo goes to bed at 7.

    • Achmed says:

      09:30am | 27/01/13

      Its rude, selfish, inconsiderate, arrogant and shows a lack of any “class” and it shows a lack of any parenting skills.
      And to make even worse, the kids will grow up with that same lack of skills and consideration for others…

    • Bitten says:

      11:01am | 27/01/13

      And to make even worse, the kids will grow up with that same lack of skills and consideration for others…

      +1. This is what my aunt, a counsellor who works with low-income families in the education department, says. We are about to receive a generation of grown adults who are incapable of considering anyone but themselves because they have never had to in their entire lives.  She says it’s not the end of society, but the little sh*ts are going to have the worst of it, because their inability to follow directions, obey rules and consider others will leave them consistently in breach of the law, in breach of social norms and wherever they attempt to succeed, in the workplace, in relationships, they will fail spectacularly. Their useless parents haven’t bothered to give them any skills to negotiate adult life in a cohesive society - too busy being their kids’ best friends.

    • Rob says:

      10:05am | 27/01/13

      It’s ironic that this topic is covered in a column because, long before selfies and all this other me-me-me stuff came along in the general public, columns have been a shining example of people talking about themselves and their thoughts on every little thing in their lives that they think people should know about, ad nauseum.

    • Iggy Crash says:

      10:06am | 27/01/13

      I will never, ever understand parents that insist on dragging their screaming brats to places not meant for children! I didn’t step foot in a cafe until I was 17! Hint: if you’re kid is being a beat in a cage it’s because they’re BORED. Get a take-away latte and go to the damn park! I take my daughter to have counter meals in the family bistro and to Dome, a cafe that advertises specifically to people with children as a family friendly environment. In both of those place I expect PERFECT behaviour. She gets one warning and if she continues, we leave. Be considerate of other people, it’s not hard! My husband and I wait until our (incredibly rare!) child-free nights to go somewhere “grown-up”. When we had our daughter we were aware that our social life wouldn’t be the same. The people who do torture their kids at grown up places obviously didn’t the memo about the lifestyle change required when you pro-create.

    • ramases says:

      10:20am | 27/01/13

      Its really not the kids fault its the parents who believe that their little darlings have a right to do as they wish. really when one thinks about it its not even the parents fault as parenting, as we old farts knew it is a thing of the past with so many rules and regulation about your children’s rights that most people just either grin and bare it or just ignore it. The first thing children are taught at school is not reading, or arithmetic but their rights which seem to overshadow the rights as parents. Its time a good swift clip across the ears or a kick up the backside were bought back to teach these little morons a bit of respect. All hail the rubber thong.

    • KAT says:

      10:25am | 27/01/13

      A friend of mine was telling me a story at Christmas about witnessing a mother so intent on getting a Santa photo of her 3 year old that she was completely ignoring the fact that her child was so upset and hysterical she was on the verge of vomiting… my friend walked away and 15 minutes later when she came back with her son this same woman was still there with this poor child… a lady apparently walked up to her and told her in no uncertain terms that allowing the daughters hysteria to go on for so long was a form of child abuse and she really should just take her home… the mother went off a little but then did as she was advised…

    • Schmavo says:

      10:35am | 27/01/13

      I had the ‘joy’ of catching public transport into the CBD during peak hour. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve done this. The thing that got me? How arrogant and aggressive society has become at the simple task of disembarking and exiting the station. I wouldn’t want to be an old granny, she’d have no hope. I wonder if other cities have changed as much?

    • Philosopher says:

      01:43pm | 27/01/13

      the French cop it much worse, particularly if they sing songs to themselves…

    • mikk says:

      10:45am | 27/01/13

      Ha You people make me laugh with all your whinging about “self obsessed bogans” and their selfishness and attention seeking ways.
      It is all the direct result of your glorious capitalism with its destruction of “community” and the structures that supported it and its its emphasis on individualism and greed and selfishness.

      Is it any wonder our younger generations have become narcissistic, jumped up little turds when for years we have taught them that “you do whatever it takes” and you “walk all over those in your way” to get what you WANT.
      All the examples of selfishness, greed , spite, fraud, corruption, and disloyalty from those at the top over the last few decades have been heeded and now it is the way we roll in this country. Empathy, compassion, understanding, solidarity and selflessness are all unknown words to your average modern Australian.

      The rudeness, the combativeness, the fear will all continue as long as we listen to the right wingers and their self serving and hateful ideology of “Im alright jack, f^#% the rest of you”. This divisiveness and fearmongering are a deliberate plot to undermine the rest of us, to make us submissive, scared and passive, too weak and powerless alone to do anything but go with the flow and become the uncaring pieces of refuse that provoked all the above posters to rant and rave.

      Wake up people the 1% do this to us deliberately and we are stupid enough to fall for it. And suffer for it.
      How much worse does it have to get before people open their eyes and stand up against those that would fool and trick us into thinking and acting like bigots and cowards. If we even bother to think at all.

    • marley says:

      01:08pm | 27/01/13

      @mikk - so in other words, it’s not our fault if we behave like bigots and cowards because we’ve been “tricked” into it by some unknown, unidentifiable 1%.  Nope, sorry, I’m an adult and I take responsibility for my behaviour. That you have to blame it on someone else says something about your maturity.

      And by the way, as far as the world at large is concerned, we, all of us ARE the 1%.

    • ramases says:

      02:59pm | 27/01/13

      Your rant is just that a rant. It practically absolves anybody from having good manners or behaving in a civilised way because of some unknown 1% of the people. People should be responsible for their own actions and that’s all there is too it. If you behave like an ignorant slob there is nobody to blame but yourself and people will look down on you for what you are. I for one believe that we all should be responsible for our own actions and act accordingly with dur respect and courtesy to those who are my elders and those who should know better, it really pisses the latter right off.

    • libertarian vegetarian says:

      04:06pm | 27/01/13

      Actually mikk, you can blame your beloved welfare state for the destruction of our communities.
      People no longer care about supporting or caring for their neighbors, because their sense of social responsibility has been farmed out to the government.
      That’s been helped along by a succession of progressive governments and education depts that are too busy telling children their rights and taking away the ability of teachers to discipline recalcitrants to bother teaching them anything that might be useful in helping them succeed in life.
      Add to that the destruction of family groups by making single motherhood a viable occupation rather than an unfortunate circumstance best avoided and the encouragement of herding children into childcare centres at the earliest possible age by actively penalising those who would choose to have one parent at home full time.
      All in all, a pretty good recipe for a fragmented society. As you state
      “a deliberate plot to undermine the rest of us, to make us submissive, scared and passive, too weak and powerless alone to do anything but go with the flow”.  Yep sounds pretty much like soviet Russia, you know that wonderful utopia the socialists would like to turn Australia into.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      11:18am | 27/01/13

      And planes, if their not old enough to lift the 18kg emergency door for people to get out they shouldn’t be on the plane….....*sarc*

    • OzTrucker says:

      12:24pm | 27/01/13

      One questions their right to even breathe raspberry

    • Meredith says:

      12:06pm | 27/01/13

      What is wrong with taking your children to cafes and restaurants and teaching them how to behave.  That is what my daughter does and her children are a delight to take out.  They behave better than some adults.  Really, how precious are some people, and this from the generation that act like animals at pubs.  It is all about restraint and boundaries and some adults and children have not learnt that yet.

    • Crumpy Gunt says:

      12:56pm | 27/01/13

      Problem solved for Mrs Gunt and me. Sold the cave, bought a reliable 4x4 and a medium sized caravan. We’re gypsies now and love it. People on the road are much more on the same wavelength, having had similar surburban experiences. We will be arriving in Exmouth soon to do a bit of fishing hopefully. And Mrs Gunt says I’m not so crumpy nowadays.

    • Mouse says:

      02:54pm | 27/01/13

      Am going to be joining you soon Crumpy. Am doing up a camper trailer and then it’s off, off and awayyyyyyy! Looking forward to it. Are you fully retired or do you pick up casual work along the way?  :o)

    • marley says:

      03:50pm | 27/01/13

      We’ve got friends that are going to do that soon.  He’s a tradie, she’s a farm girl born and bred, they’re now getting on a bit, and have a hankering for the bush.  They came into a bit of luck recently - she laid down a $5 bet on the Melbourne Cup trifecta, and won $42,000 - and it really couldn’t happen to a nicer couple.  So, they’re looking around for an offroad caravan, and then they’re taking off. He’ll pick up work when they need to top up the bank account. 

      Personally, I prefer a bit more permanence in my life, but I can see the attractions of the road as well.

    • adolph stalin says:

      04:56pm | 27/01/13

      I’m much more interested in the thought processes of people who are so self-absorbed that they can’t appreciate the impact of their actions on everyone around them,,much like people who think there little latte should be nice and with with no interuptions from any other person??


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