Family Guy: Shopping hell with the most embarrassing dad ever (me)
WE don't often bring our children shopping with us these days, largely because the tower of sighs each has become hardly constitutes the term 'child' any longer.
Really, it's because they'd rather do anything else. This is my fault, as I am such an embarrassing dad. There is almost always a scene, if I can help it.
Shopping brings out the worst in their dad. They, quite simply, can't bring me anywhere.
Years of watching through their fingers as I spin the shopping cart in little pirouettes from aisle to aisle, squawking like a chicken, or whooping, barking, then sticking out my bum and doing a funny walk, have resulted in their patent refusal to pretty much accompany me anywhere.
"I'm perfectly well-behaved when I'm on my own," I tell my wife. It's no coincidence that we're on our way to a mall and there's a single, increasingly haunted-looking teenager in the back, shifting uncomfortably.
"If, by 'on your own', you mean when you're with me," she points out, "then actually no, you're not."
"It's them," I chuckle, cocking a thumb over my shoulder. "They bring it out in me."
"You can just let me out here," mutters our teen. We haven't even reached the end of our road. "Seriously," he says. "I'll walk. I don't mind."
"That's crazy," I tell him. "It must be 10 miles."
We turn onto the main road.
"Whatever," he shrugs.
We're bringing him to get new glasses as he's been squinting through a one-armed pair, balanced on the end of his nose by one remaining pad, for months now.
"I had glasses when I was a kid," I announce wistfully.
"You still have glasses," says my wife, adding under her breath, "and you're still a kid."
"Yes, but I don't really need them anymore," I tell her.
"You can't read a thing without them," she says incredulously.
"Only because they're making the cooking instructions smaller," I say, "just so they can fit 28 languages on the back of a packet of instant rice. Globalisation is to blame for my bad eyesight. The EU should pay for my glasses."
"There's a bus stop just up here," pipes up the teen. He droops visibly as it whizzes by.
When we eventually pull in to the shopping centre, we're still arguing as to why I'm blind as well as embarrassing. The teen in the back is holding his face by the cheeks and blinking as though trying to change TV channels with his eyes.
At the eye specialists, we hang around at what seems like a respectful distance as our son chooses frames.
Everyone's whispering in the crowded shop, like it's a church. I can't resist mimicking a small farting noise. My wife shoots me a warning glare.
I hold my hands up. "Best behaviour," I whisper hoarsely. "Promise."
He chooses cheap frames, the cheapest he can find. Clearly, he wants this all to end as soon as possible.
"With your son's prescription," says the woman at the counter, "the lenses will be quite heavy. Would you like them specially thinned?"
"Specially thinned?" I frown.
"We can thin them," she says. "It costs extra," she adds confidentially.
"No, that's fine," says the boy.
"Sun glare," announces the woman, "can mean that not all the light reaches the eye."
"Specially thinned," I'm still muttering.
"Here is a picture of glasses that haven't been treated." She shows us a picture of a person wearing glasses. Light flashes off one of the lenses.
"And this," she says, with a flourish, "is a picture of the same glasses with 'anti-glare'."
"Hold on," I say, "that's the exact same photo. You've just removed the glare with Photoshop or something."
"That's fine," says the boy. He looks at me. "It's fine," he says with a sort of pleading look.
"When will they be ready?" I ask the woman.
"Hmm," she frowns, tapping her clipboard with a pen. "The glass is going to be so thick, they may take extra time," she says.
"Wouldn't it take extra time to 'specially thin them'?" I say through gritted teeth.
"Three days," she says.
My wife rejoins us at the door. "We need to do some shopping," she says, holding up empty bags.
"Can I please just wait in the car?" says the boy.
"It's warm," I tell him, chucking keys. "Crack a window. I don't want to come back to a crowd."
We watch him go. I grab a shopping cart, stick out my bum and do my funny walk. "Ready?" I say.
My wife looks at me. She bites her lip.
"You'd really rather suffocate in the car, wouldn't you?" I say. She nods. I stand up straight. "Best behaviour," I tell her.
I wait as she walks a little way ahead of me, then I give the cart a last sneaky spin.