the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Man vs. Boy


Later today, I’ll be walking into therapy with my head held high.   Yesterday, I took an important step towards being assertive.   I spoke up for myself.  I stood my ground, despite the aggressiveness of my opponent.

It all started when I entered my local coffee shop, a business named Hawaii Coffee or Aloha Coffee — I’m not entirely sure, because although the coffee shop has been opened for a year and a half, they still haven’t placed a sign outside.  Inside, the walls are brightly decorated with photos of surfers and real ukuleles, all there to remind you that the shop is Hawaiian-themed.  It is a decent-looking place, but they should have saved some of the money they spent on the kitschy ukuleles, and bought a sign instead.

The “Hawaiian” coffee shop have several different types of coffee, including their “famous” Hawaiian Kona coffee which, ironically, is their worst-tasting coffee.  But there are free re-fills and free wi-fi, so I can’t complain too much.

Usually the shop is empty when I come in, but today it was packed — with mothers and kids.  It was Martin Luther King Day, so the schools were closed, and all the mothers were schlepping their kids around as they did their shopping.  All the tables were already taken.  The only available seating was in the corner — two cushioned chairs with a large table in front.  An eleven year old boy was kneeling in front of the table, playing with a toy construction set, similar to the Erector Set I had when I was a boy.   There were dozens of metal pieces strewn all over the table.  His mother was seated elsewhere, gossiping with her friends.

I bought a cup of coffee and headed over to the chairs.

“Are you using this chair?” I asked the Kid, smiling at him.

“Yes,” he quickly answered.

I made note that he was kneeling on the floor.

“How about this other chair?”  I asked.

“I need that chair, too.”

“Why’s that?”

“I need a lot of SPACE!” he announced.  He went back to playing with his metal, a Donald Trump in the making.  He smashed the pieces together as if he was building a Transformer.

“Screw it,” I said to myself, and decided to go outside.  I would drink my coffee while sitting on top of my car.  Then I stopped.  What the hell was I doing?  This was an eleven year old kid!  I retraced my steps back to the Kid.  I leaned down to face him.

“You’re not using these chairs right now, and you can’t use both of them, so I’m going to take one of them, OK?”

I probably shouldn’t have asked his permission because it just made him more adamant.

“I need the space!”

Let me remind you that during this entire exchange, his mother didn’t even look over once.

“You can have your space,” I told the annoying Kid.  “But I’m going to take this empty chair and move it over HERE, so I can sit.”


I slid the chair several feet away from the kid.   I sat and enjoyed my coffee.  The Kid went back to destroying his metallic city.  The mother kept on gabbing.

I was proud of myself.  I didn’t back down against my young, but worthy, nemesis.

It was a moment to remember.

Now, who’s going to take me on next?!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   Why I Write


  1. Tuck

    Clearly, the therapy is paying off and things are moving in the right direction. Tomorrow it’s on to bigger challenges….little old ladies with sensible shoes. You go, man!

  2. brettdl

    Hey, want to practice on my kids? I promise, despite their tender years, they are a worthy challenge. Booo-hahaha.

  3. Geeky Tai-Tai

    GAH! I hate public holidays where moms just let their kids do “whatever” in a public space. You handled the situation very well. You were a paying customer and that mom was a totally rude ditz! It’s no different over here. In some ways it’s worse. The moms gab and make their maids handle their children, and of course, they’re not allowed to be stern and so the children are nasty little brats running amok. I do my best to avoid them on holidays and Sundays (when the maids are allowed an afternoon off).

  4. better safe than sorry

    what a productive day you had, terrorizing a precious angel while his mother desperately avoids your gaze in the hopes of not being your next victim and then trashing a local independent coffee shops signature coffee. fingers crossed that wasn’t dooces nephew.

  5. Not Fainthearted

    I think you did well. You didn’t resort to sarcasm or cruel name-calling. You didn’t pour your coffee on him or stamp your feet and shout. You laid it out clearly and were the adult. Bravo! It was good for him too. He needs to learn that he’s not the only one that “needs space” in a crowded coffee shop.

  6. Finn

    Well done! Today the kid in the coffee shop, tomorrow a hot woman!

  7. Jennifer

    There’s nothing like kicking an 11 year old’s ass to boost your self esteem!! you should have taken his candy too!!
    I hate parents who don’t watch their kids. It is my number one pet peeve. I am hyper aware of mine and how they’re behaving in public. You should have gone and kicked his mother’s butt!!

  8. churlita

    Hey, I have a couple of kids you could stand up to. The only thing is, I’ve raised my kids to be respectful of adults, so you may not need to.

  9. Dagny

    You should have asked his mother how much she was paying you for babysitting.

  10. gorillabuns

    well, you showed him.

  11. Christine

    Seriously, KIDS these days!!!

  12. Karl

    Go Neil, go! Little bitch punk needs someone to knock him over the head with those metal toys of his.

    What a terror THAT kid is going to be. If he’s already demanding space, he’s going to be loads of fun in the future.

  13. V-Grrrl

    What?! You didn’t sit in the chair, “accidentally” kick over his creation and tell him to start over? What kind of NY native are you? You’ve been in California WAY too long.

    And if you really wanted to get revenge on his mother, you should have bought the kid a LARGE coffee (The Hawaiian Tsunami!). Spiked with sugar and whipped cream. Nothing like a sugared-up, highly caffeinated 11-year-old to make a woman wish she’d never, ever had sex with the father of her child.

  14. Inarticulate Fumblings

    Little Shit… Good on ya…

  15. HeyJoe

    This reflects so poorly on the little shit’s mother. Too many parents are completely oblivious to what their snot monsters are doing. You should have just taken his whole damn table, but baby steps brother.

  16. Bec

    You fronted up to an 11 year old? Who had metal at his disposal?! Are you bloody mad?! Just pray he didn’t follow you home! Get bodyguards now!

  17. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Good for you dude. Tweens sceeer me.

  18. Erin Cooper

    I’m so proud of you for not committing any acts of violence against that little twerp.

    Holy crap, I am SO not ready for parenting.

  19. Kyra

    Actually, I’m most impressed that you didn’t smack the mother of said brat on your way out. Geeze.

  20. OMSH

    Okay, now you have conquered the boy beast, take on a highschool girl and then just keep moving up until you are face to face with an elder … and say, “BRING IT ON!”

  21. DaveX

    I’d have just taken the chair without asking, frankly. He wasn’t using it, and it’s not his. Asking just gives the kid authority to answer however he wants.

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