I can still remember a time when you walked out the door and left technology behind you. Sure, you got into a car and walked into stores with air conditioning, but you left the gadgets at home. Phones rang endlessly because no one was at home, and you missed whatever was playing on television because you went out to socialize instead. Losing the programming from all two of those channels was no great loss anyway. From May to September you were living off reruns, and Sunday afternoons afforded nothing better than golf – the dregs of entertainment. Even kids lost all interest in that magical box other than Saturday mornings, when cartoons reigned supreme for four hours. These days children have access to entire stations that stream talking sponges nonstop. Oh, the progress we have made. But perhaps we have also ensnared ourselves with our modern conveniences. Now instead of being able to leave your work at the office, you can access your email on a screen the size of a saltine cracker right from your purse. And instead of leaving that ringing contraption at the house, friends and family members expect you to answer the phone anytime they deem to hit the Call button under your name. I don’t really think we have a grip on technology; I think it’s the other way around.
I ate supper with my best friend a few nights ago in celebration of her birthday. While the restaurant may be modest by New York standards, in my small town the local Japanese steak house is one of the premier places to feast, so I marveled as I watched the family of three across the reflective grill. The wife never took her eyes off of her phone.
About thirty seconds after they sat down, she got a call. She proceeded to talk for the next twenty minutes. She chatted through the drink and meal order, through the wonton soup, and through the salad with the yummy ginger dressing. Her husband and daughter talked briefly to each other, but it was hard for them to compete with her. Shannon and I were having a hard time, and we were clear across the steaming pit, at least four paper lanterns away. She was even still talking when the chef rolled out his cart and started tossing eggs in the air, but when flames rose three feet off the grill and threatened her Lifeproof case, she finally told Jojo she’d call her back. As if there was anything left to say at this point.
And now you’re thinking that after leaving her family in a communication desert for the length of time that it takes to watch a Big Bang episode that this woman would shape up and mind her manners. You’d be wrong. As soon as she ended the call, she went head down, totally absorbed in her screen. The only time she spoke to her daughter was to point out an interesting update on somebody’s Facebook page. She missed the onion volcano, the Asian fireworks, and the pulsing fried rice heart spatula. I think our chef could have set himself on fire and she wouldn’t have noticed, although her poor husband looked bored enough to give it a try.
At the end of the hour, the husband finally pulled Mrs. Facebook away from all the interesting posts on the latest in fabric softener and the calorie count consumed by the “friend” she’s never really liked anyway, and they rose from the table, her thumb still on the move. The wife left behind an entire plate of steak and shrimp since she’d been too engrossed to eat. She should have just tossed her $25 on the grill and watched it burn, but I doubt she could have spared the time away from her network.
“You know,” I said to Shannon as I chased the last of my fried rice with chopsticks, “I hope we never get to the point that we can’t have a conversation because our scrolling gets in the way.”
Shannon nodded. “At least if the chef had torched my eyebrows, she would have been Johnny on the spot with 911.”
© 2014 – Traci Carver