How to Clear a Room in 5 Minutes


Start a heated discussion with a family member in a room full of people who aren’t family.

Those close to us know that my mom and I are very close. I’m sure my stepdad still shudders at the memory of those screaming matches heated discussions we had in my teen years. It was ugly. But – I understand that these are a right of passage for teenage girls and their mothers. (I can’twait to be on the receiving end in the next few years.) I won’t bore you with messy details of the past, but suffice it to say there were more than a few moments my mom pulled out the suitcases and offered to pack for me. To be fair, I often used the old, tired threat of  – I’m going to go live with my dad!

So, I was in the restaurant kitchen a couple of nights ago. A close friend of the family was hanging out with us as I made chocolate mousse, and Andy (the chef) and my mom were prepping for dinner service. I happened to mention something to my mom about some plans Todd and I had made, and apparently the timing was bad or something and mom got all snotty about it.

Meanwhile, a server had entered the kitchen to gather things for the dining room, and family friend was standing by. Ordinarily one to avoid conflict, even with my mom in my middle age, I turned around and started spewing my complaints about not being able to please everyone, and how (essentially) I was being pulled in many different directions by everyone who had their own needs as well. I may have raised my voice. A little. Okay, maybe a lot.

When I was done, mom spoke calmly to me – kind of like one might do to a bear that suddenly appeared on your patio – and suddenly I noticed family friend rapidly retreating through the kitchen door. And then I looked around and noticed no one elsebut my mom, her blue eyes meeting mine with that look of pity/kindness one gives to a mental patient. The restaurant kitchen, normally quite loud during operations, was dead quiet…and no sign of Andy either. Just a pot of something savory quietly simmering on the stove.

Feeling suddenly like a complete jerk, I went about silently cleaning up my work area and people started slowly filtering back into the kitchen. Mom offered to cook me something for dinner – to which I said, no – I’m not hungry (total lie) and, you don’t need to be cooking for me. Still looking at me like I might snap again, she said – But I love cooking for you. It’s what I love to do. Still feeling obstinate I said, you’re not going to poison it, are you? What??! Where the hell did THAT come from? How did 16-year-old Tara get in here??

Andy, who had returned to his post behind the line (restaurant talk for where the food gets prepared), continued to work quietly as if he were deaf and mute. Family friend never came back – instead opting to start drinking out at the bar.

To make a short story shorter – all’s well that ends well. We all went back to our normal lives.

But – the holidays are here – and they’re filled with emotions and frustrations and old family feuds and love, all rolled into a tight little dysfunctional ball. If you find yourself surrounded by family and friends alike, and you want them all to go away fast – pick a fight with someone. Unless your family loves a good fight – then that might not be such a good idea – like two brothers who really don’t get along – I don’t recommend they throw a banana peel at each other (true story). The cops don’t really enjoy breaking up physical altercations between families. At least I don’t think they do. And mom won’t be particularly happy when her priceless antique lamp gets broken (hypothetically speaking, of course).

My method worked quite well, I think. Even if I had to regress some 30 years to accomplish an unplanned goal (and thus, more fodder for the blog mill).

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