Dear Steve "Shecky" Perlman,
I wanted to write you a letter to inform you that you did not ruin my day with my family. (Almost, but we rise above such events.) We journeyed to historic Philadelphia today to learn more about our country's birth and experience a piece of our nation's history. Unfortunately, we received you as our tour guide through Independence Hall.
For weeks, I researched exactly what we wanted to do to show our children about the United States of America in the city of Philadelphia. I knew immediately that I wanted us to tour Independence Hall - where such honored men as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson walked its halls and made momentous decisions. The site of the signings of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The room where George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and where his "rising sun" chair still sits. Our family was excited to tour this historic building and arrived early to sign up for our timed tour. We waited patiently in line in the blazing sun and eagerly entered the building when our tour began. We settled our children in their seats (and, yes, with our nursing babies, a bathroom detour, and two strollers). Once your presentation began, however, everyone was quiet and ready to listen about the historic rooms we were about to view.
And then the fun ended. When you first shushed my two-year old and told me, "Keep it quiet over there," I admit I had my feathers ruffled by that comment. After all, Simon asking me "better, Mama?" because YOU had asked the audience of 50+ people "What was a BETTER sign that this is a painting of the signing of the Constitution?" was barely audible over the answers of the other people in the room. I personally did not think Simon was being disruptive. A 2-year old asking his mother a question in a crowded room? Come on, Shecky, imagine what he could have been doing - screaming at the top of his lungs that George Washington was a "bad boy", smearing Goldfish crumbs on the painting of the signing of the Constitution, running up and down the aisles and goosing the other tourists. But I wanted to be respectful, so I sat Simon on my lap next to Violet and asked him to be quiet.
Then you started telling jokes. When you asked the audience, "Where was George Washington during the signing of the Declaration of Independence?" and someone answered, "Fighting," I dutifully laughed at your quip - "What, fighting with Martha?" When you started to heckle a young man up front about "obviously not being married" because he looked confused by your humor, the rest of the audience started laughing and talking amongst themselves. Did you ask any of them to be quiet? Did you reprimand any of them for making a noise in the room? No, you did not. Instead, when Simon asked me what everyone was laughing about, you looked right at me and said, "You need to do something about him." The second time you told me to keep my child quiet, I could not keep MY mouth quiet. It was motherly-outrage that made me say back to you, "Could you please be patient? He is only two years old." But then you just glared at me. And refused to continue your presentation while I sat there and stared back at you. Part of me said to just sit there despite your obvious disapproval of me and my children, and part of me knew I had to get out of there before I said or did something I would regret.
So I walked out of your tour carrying my baby and holding my 2-year old's hand. And I was upset. Upset that you singled us out in a room full of people, simply because Simon was little. Upset that you forced us to leave the one place I had wanted to visit for weeks. Upset that Simon was now crying as well because he didn't understand how he had behaved "badly." (Which you did not, sweet Simon - you were so well-behaved in there. Better behaved than that rude man who was about 50 years older than you.) I vocally expressed my feelings outside to my family, took my time to cool off, then accepted the kind offer of another guide that my family, complete with children, could join his tour. I was proud of my husband when he confronted you. I don't believe a word you say when you told him that "five people thanked me" for what you did to us. And now I can laugh that you actually said to my husband that "your kid couldn't keep his mouth shut." Apparently he's not the only one.