hakuna matata, means no worries

We have been packing. Packing a lot. In between packing, we are painting. And cleaning. And landscaping. So, the other day after yet another run to the storage unit for more boxes and bubble wrap, we all stopped a local diner for lunch. There at our table in the diner was a small jukebox. They kids were fascinated.

“You used to pay money to play songs?” Ash laughed and pulled out her iPhone.

I told them that when B and I were first married, we would go to lunch at Shakey’s Pizza, just a few blocks from our house in Seattle and right next to a high school, and in the restaurant was a large jukebox with hundreds of songs. One day, we went out to lunch, and were able to go before the high school lunch hour—we did not want to be there when 200 high school students who had an extreme distaste for their cafeteria’s food descended upon Shakey’s. Most of the people in the restaurant that day were businessmen and women on their lunch break, popping in for some pizza and salad. There was one family, with a baby and a small child not yet school-aged. The mom and dad looked weary, but this was not something we could relate to at all. We did not have kids yet, and our compassion for those who did rivaled our compassion for those who chose to sit atop billboards trying to break world records. The mom and dad attempted to coax their energetic preschooler to sit quietly and eat. They failed. The kid ran and screamed and disrupted the otherwise quiet restaurant of pizza aficionados. But then, the dad pulled out of his pocket a handful of quarters and walked with his child to the large jukebox in the corner. The child watched his father drop quarters in the machine and choose a song. Seconds later, a song blasted through the restaurant, “Hakuna Matata.” The rest of us started to bop our heads along with the song, dance in our seats, and sing aloud together when it came to the verse. We all knew the song. Disney’s The Lion King animated movie was released just the year before, and the song was a hit. It was played everywhere, including the Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Seattle, Washington. It was fun. More importantly, the song delighted the preschooler who danced and sang and gave his bedraggled parents a moment to rest and eat. When the song ended, we all smiled and looked around at each other, feeling a little lighter, a little happier, like all was right in the world. It was a magical moment we all shared. Hakuna Matata, no worries. The preschooler giggled and padded his way back to the jukebox. He dropped a couple quarters in, just like his dad showed him, and punched in numbers, just like his dad showed him. He laughed out loud, and then the music started. “Hakuna Matata.”

“Huh, that kid must like the song,” stated B, taking another bite of pizza. I smiled and took another bite of pizza, danced in my seat, a little less, but I still danced. I still sang out loud at the chorus. The parents smiled at their child and continued to eat. Everyone else, shrugged, bounced their heads, and continued to enjoy their lunch. When the song ended, the child ran back to the jukebox and dropped several more quarters in. “Hakuna Matata” again. But not just again, louder. Somehow, the volume increased, and I began to worry a little. And when that song ended, it came on again and again and again and again for the next half hour. The same three-minute song on endless repeat. The same melodramatic lyrics and sound effects blasting through the pizza parlor. The same mere cat and warthog voices demanding that I not worry but change to a problem-free philosophy. But there was a problem. No one—with the notable exception of the preschooler and his parents—was enjoying the song. No one was dancing along. No one was singing. What once united us, now threw us into our own corners of hell. A teen a few tables over, pulled his hoody up and slumped way down in his chair. One man across from us pulled out his own headphones and blasted death metal just to escape the show tune. Another shoved several pieces of pizza into his mouth and ran from the restaurant with his hands over his ears. And with every repeat came a collective groan, “Not again!” It was not hakuna matata in the Shakey's. In one final moment of sheer frustration at the fifteenth repeat, B threw his hands in the air and shouted, “I can’t do this anymore.” He pitched his napkin on his plate, pushed himself from the table, and stomped to the car. I followed as quickly as I could.

“Do you mind if we keep the radio off?” He asked as he turned the car on. I answered like a petulant teen, “No. Keep it off. I don’t think that I ever want to hear music again. I cannot unhear that song.” As B pulled out of the parking lot, a swarm of high schoolers opened the door the restaurant and a chorus of Hakuna Matata screamed out. The parents—smiling, well fed, and content—exited and ushered their still dancing preschooler into their minivan.

 As a parent, my perspective has changed. There have been moments when a bucket of quarters and a Disney song—any Disney song on repeat—would be a small price to pay for an uninterrupted and drama-free meal. Heck, I bet I could do “Hakuna Matata” for three hours right now and not even noticed that the song was playing if it meant I could eat pizza and salad and not listen to The Girl and Monkey Boy bicker or complain or mock each other. That would truly be hakuna matata.