Joris Minne: Let's set a test... and only the good can eat
Eating out in a restaurant is not just an exercise in entertainment and enjoyment. It is also an expression of civilisation.
It is proof that complete strangers can spend hours together in a confined space eating loads of food and taking a lot of drink and not getting into fights.
Examples of this can be seen every day in any kind of restaurant, ranging from KFC to Eipic.
According to a growing number of grumblers, this delicate balance is under threat from the increase in children not knowing how to behave in restaurants.
What's more, the parents of these children can get seriously upset because they cannot tell the difference between being asked to keep their children under control and being disrespected. The ensuing rows ruin it for everyone.
I've seen it happen three times in seven years, so it's not exactly an epidemic. Nonetheless, it may be time to nip it in the bud.
Under the Minne Plan, people who want to take their children with them would be required to show proof of good behaviour. This would take the form of a photo ID card secured by passing an exam. The Restaurants Association of Ireland would offer exams to under-16s for a modest admin fee.
The questions would include essential skills information such as: which hand do you hold a fork in; what is the correct way to eat peas; where do you put your mobile when at the table; and so on.
Addressing staff in a restaurant would also be covered - under-16s are frequently baffled by restaurant terms such as "please" and 'thank you" and "may I have some ketchup?".
No child will pass the test and secure the card without passing the practical. This would test how long he or she can sit in a chair (anything below 45 minutes is a fail), determine how much fizzy drink is too much (those sugar rushes are largely to blame for the shouting and running about), and how to wipe your mouth with a napkin.
Card-carrying children will be welcome. The rest of us will be safe from out-of-control thuglets to eat, drink and be merry.