We were on our second helpings at the Chinese buffet (my dad was technically on his second helping but six plates in), when the lights flickered out. There were a few sharp screams and then silence. The crowded restaurant was waiting, bated breath.
The lights came back on. My family members all made eye contact with one another — except for my dad, who had a bowl tilted in front of his entire face as he slurped down hot-and-sour soup. I'm not sure whether he realized the lights went out or he thought it was just a shadow from his monstrous bowl. There was a moment before we began talking again. My kindergartener emerged from under the table.
He did what he had been taught to do in school — did what he was taught to do when there is an active shooter. Duck down under something. I took his hand and felt a wave of sadness that this is what my son instinctively fears when there is a power outage. But truthfully, isn't it what we all felt in that restaurant? My other hand was on my daughter, because I had been preparing to pull her out of her highchair so we could run. Before the lights came back on, my eyes were firmly planted on the lighted exit sign.
I know of not a single mass shooting that occurred after someone killed the lights, but all of the people in that restaurant, with the exception of my dad — who probably could have set a bullet off course by flicking a wonton into the air at just the precise moment — had the fear they might be shot flicker through their minds before the lights flickered back on. This is our shared trauma.
My son looked ashamed when he told me he had been scared. I lied to him; I smiled and said, "Why scared? There's nothing to be afraid of." But he knew where my hands had been. He saw where my eyes had been focused.
I used to write a column for every mass shooting, and then I stopped because they were happening so frequently that my column would have been about nothing but shootings. But it's the lack of talking that has me most frustrated.
We probably have very different views on guns and how to stop this epidemic; however, I'm willing to wager that everyone reading this wants the shootings to stop.
Schools are sacred. Places of worship are sacred. And, if you are a member of my family, Chinese buffet restaurants are sacred. Most importantly, lives are sacred.
These places and people need to be protected. But we're too busy shutting up the other side to find a solution — silencing those who desire the exact same outcome we want but have a different road map to get there.
Can you imagine doing this with anything else? Your family members are starving. Half want steak; half want fish. So angry over this disagreement on nourishment, you refuse to find common ground. Nothing changes, and you all starve and die. Well, that was stupid. If you had just gotten to the root shared feeling of I am starving and don't want to die, perhaps some real conversation, negotiations and resolutions could have come from it — for example, a lovely buffet with Hunan beef and jade scallop delight.
When I would get the flu as a child, my dad would take me to Chinese buffets. We would sit there for hours. He'd insist I fill my little body with plate after plate and bowl after bowl of vegetables, soups, fruits and meats. We'd stay there as they'd turn over the dishes from lunch to dinner. Sometimes I'd fall asleep in the booth, wake up and eat again. This was my dad's way of healing and nourishing my body.
When I tell people this, I often receive a shocked reaction. Some find it foolish; others find it irresponsible. But I never stayed sick for very long. Whether or not it was the best choice, it was at least a proactive choice that brought me to the desired goal more quickly. Health.
I still take myself and my family to Chinese buffets when any of us are under the weather. That is why we were in the restaurant when the lights flickered out and my kindergartener dived under the table.
As I was leaving, I read my fortune cookie: "Try the bang bang shrimp."
I'd rather not, thanks.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.