My husband took me out to eat recently. We went to LongHorn Steakhouse and I must say that we had the best steaks we've had since our honeymoon eight years ago in Las Vegas. You wouldn't often describe meat from a cow as luscious, but this meat, well, it practically melted in your mouth. I even told the waiter and managed not to drool when saying it. But eating cow is not what this post is about. It's about communication.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we realized we were in for a wait, a very long wait, a one-hour-wait-to-seat-two-people kind of wait. We sat on the little waiting area bench and talked to each other. My husband had to use the bathroom facilities and so I filled my time with one of my favorite activities, human observation. Almost every person who entered the restaurant took their little "your table is ready" notification apparatus, which looks alarmingly like some sort of Taser device, by the way, found a place to park themselves either sitting or standing and promptly pulled out their phone to do whatever. Some already had their phones in their hand when they came through the door.
Now, being the human observer that I am, I took note of the dynamic the phone played in various situations around me. People who were waiting by themselves, I could understand. There is a need to "do" something while you wait. Me, I am still a connoisseur of the fine art of vegging, i.e. being in a vegetative state, or quite the opposite of "do" which is to do nothing and just be still. I have always said that patience is a virtue and this is part of it.
The woman beside me, I noticed, was on Facebook. Not that I was snooping, I just happened to glance and see that familiar blue and white I know so well. Of the group of four beside her, three had their phones out and were excitedly exchanging information. I overheard one woman say to the other, "Now you've done it. He has your number. Who knows what you'll get from him now!" Across the entryway, several sat on the opposite bench, poking at their phones. I wondered if they too were on Facebook or if they were texting or perhaps playing Angry Birds while looking important and busy. A young man waiting alone used his phone to serve as his Walkman, ear buds intact. Old fogies, you know what that is, the Walkman. Go ahead, date yourself right a long with me. Younger generation, you would know it as the archaic version of the iPod. A young boy played a loud game on his phone, or perhaps the phone belonged to one of his parental units, these days it's hard to tell. We get our kids phones at stupid ages. By we, I mean you, of course.
Then there was the couple who came in, looking quite ritzy and well-off. A husband and wife, I'll presume, who immediately pulled out their respective communication devices and ignored each other completely. Maybe they were talking to each other on their devices, who the heck knows? It made me feel bad for them. Can't they talk to each other? Do they hate each other? Are they so bored with one another that they are forced to shift their focus to avoid divorce? I remembered the days of beepers. Remember? The only time you were ever interrupted when out in public was if you really were important and you had a beeper. Respect, man, now that was respect. You were a doctor or a chief of police or some highly regarded profession. "Excuse me, I have to take/make this call," meant it was really important. Someone was dying, being born, or on fire. Nowadays, that same person might be interrupted with an "LOL!" Sheesh.
Even when seated at our table, I observed people using their phones while conversing with their table companions. Personally, I find this very rude if it is done consistently. I am here, pay attention to ME! Is it a status symbol, something to make a person appear prestigious? People like to feel needed, possibly even need to feel needed, some acutely more than others. I realize this. However, I believe we are in the midst of a connection or communication addiction epidemic. Some people just cannot ignore a text or go without being "connected" for even an hour. It's a sickness, really.
If I were an alien from another planet and I observed this behavior, I think my report would go something like this:
I observed the human race on the planet of Earth today. It appears they all need some sort of life support, battery pack, or energy device to keep them alive. Only the very young and old of the species seem to survive without the device, plus a few select others who seem to be immune to the need for this life-giving technology. Many of the subjects observed were required to pull the machine out and touch it with a finger hundreds of times before being able to put it back in its storage facility, a "pocket" or "purse". These devices beeped and chimed when the user needed a recharge and the user was required to pull out the device and touch it, presumably to continue life-force. Some were even required to put it up to the ear. We assume this was for people with advanced disease who needed an opening close to the brain for direct penetration of this energy. We were not able to determine what would happen if the prompts were ignored. We suspect that they would fall over in a slump and possibly die altogether. However, the beeps and chimes are never ignored. Therefore, we may never know.
As I pondered this at the table at LongHorn, I pulled a pen and piece of paper out of my purse and began to jot down notes for this blog posting. My husband said, "Look at you, old school with your pen and paper," and I thought to myself that yes, it would be nice to have one of those smart phones that I could take the notes on or an iPad and one of those cool roll-out wireless keyboards and then I could just whip it out and type these notes so much faster, right there at the table! And then I realized in horror that would make me "one of them". As usual, I made myself giggle just a little.