He opens his Kindle, wishing the on-screen sentences could drown out the chatter of the crawling-would-be-faster express.

  • The Arabic mother behind him arguing with her son (he hoped wasn’t as aggressive as it sounded).
  • A chorus of chavs chanting “like, y’know, innit.”
  • The man alongside him, barking some African dialect into an ancient Nokia, like a game show contestant who’d be electrocuted if he paused.

Whatever happened to inside voices? Does everyone need to know your business, even if it was intelligible?

He taps to the next page.

His mom used to say, “My Tony’s always reading. He’d rather read the Cheerios carton than carry a conversation.”

If only she’d let him bring Encyclopedia Brown or The Hardy Boys to breakfast. He wouldn’t have had to feign interest in nutritional values.  Being lost in a good box sure beat hearing her same old stories.

  • The bastards at the bowling alley forgot to tip me last night (again).
  • “Uncle” Frank heard about “Uncle” Dave, so we won’t be seeing them anymore.
  • New shoes as soon as we win that lottery!
  • Daddy’s coming home next month. I promise.


He wonders what’s worse: conversations you can’t understand or those you couldn’t comprehend.


She slinked into Simone’s and waited at the hostess stand, a Gucci leash dangling from her manicured hand. The Silky Terrier attached to it promptly sat down, inches from her alligator slingbacks, head bouncing like a bobble toy.

Seconds behind her, a boy, he had to be at least 5 or 6, crawled in and proceeded to circle them both, occasionally roaring. The dirt on the bottom of his pink Crocs clear evidence he was bipedal. The dog merely looked away.

She clocked us staring from the bar. “Don’t mind my Jasper.” She fluttered her unleashed hand. “He’s having a Simba day.”

“Not sure that’s king of the jungle footwear,” Becca said.

“Seriously? I am so sick of people judging my son for wearing pink. We’re raising him to be gender neutral.”

“No problem with that, love.” Becca raised her vermouth. “Here’s to gender neutrality. And more power to you for training your pet better than your child. But, I just wonder. Don’t you think we parents should draw a line, uhm, somewhere?”

“And where would that be?” she asked, as Jasper tried to lick the hostess’s leg. “Table for two, please.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Let’s start with Crocs.”