Teachable moment

At the Thai restaurant last night, what appeared to be a father and his two high-school-aged daughters were sitting behind me.

Father: Yep. You have to try a Mongolian restaurant some time. They have a giant wok, and everyone has to make their own food.
Girl 1: Can’t you just order stuff?
Father: No, everyone has to make their own food. It’s just the Mongolian way, I guess. You know who the most famous Mongolian was, right?
Girl 1: Genghis Khan?
Father: No, someone even more famous.
Girl 2: Um… Kublai Khan?
Father: No, both were famous Mongolians. But I am thinking about one much more famous. It’s tricky, because there is no “Khan.” It’s something the “H.”
Girl 1: Uhhh…
Girl 2: Attila the…
Father: That’s right, Attila the…?
Girl 2: Hun?
Father: Right. “Hun” is just another way of saying “Mongolian.” He sacked Rome. Did you know that?
Girl 1: Really?
Father: Amazing, isn’t it: these guys rode horses all the way across a continent from China and then managed to take over Rome.
Girl 2: Then what happened to them.
Father: I don’t know. I guess they just kind of dissapeared.
Girl 2: Huh.
Father: They were giants, though. Huge. Like all of them were way over six feet tall.
Girl 2. Huh…

A long pause followed during which I felt both guilty for eavesdropping and somehow sad.

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