Thursday, April 30, 2009

O We of Little Phone

The times they are a changing.

Last night, Brett and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants.

I don’t know what the hostess actually sees when we walk in, but I’m guessing it is a giant sandwich board that says, “Please seat this couple in the closest vicinity to any available infants.”

Because, let me tell you, they always do.

This time, we were seated next to - not one, not two - but THREE different tables all with various infants.

The table closest to us was definitely the most interesting. There were four women and a baby. The baby was actually very good and did hardly any squalling. The women were another story.

All four of the women talked to the baby - and each other - using baby talk. A snippet of the conversation consisted of:

(to the baby) “Does ewe yike sketti? Does ewe?”
(to each other) Ewe does yike sketti! Ewe does!”

It was nauseating.

I mean, I can understand talking baby talk to the baby, but to each other? Give me a break.

Brett and I about eye-rolled ourselves into a seizure during THAT conversation.

The other baby didn’t cry, thank the good Lord. But he had an issue with volume. A LOUD issue.

He would point to various objects on the table and scream, “THAT A FORK! THAT A SPOON!”

That a-nnoying.

Thankfully, his parents had a sense of humor. His dad kept trying, unsuccessfully, to shush him. Then, when his dad complained to his mom, his mom cracked me up when she said (addressing our entire dining area), “Well, he was good last time. You all should have been here then.”

She delivered her speech with a good-natured smile and accommodating little bow that had most diners, including us, smiling in acquiescence.

Our last toddler was a bratty little girl who nastily told her parents how much she DID NOT WANT TO EAT HERE. She refused to order anything off the menu and gleefully, repeatedly threw all her silverware on the floor.

“God help us,” was all my husband said after her parents finally sedated her into a macaroni-and-cheese-induced coma.

As we sat there, amidst the collateral of baby noise, I began to notice another trend.

There was a family of seven seated directly behind Brett. The family consisted of a mom, dad, four daughters, and a son. The son, who looked to be about eight years old, was playing one of those handheld electronic devices.

I watched curiously as the boy played his game during the entire dinner. The family talked to each other and seemed to ignore the boy. When the waiter asked if the boy would like anything else, the mother answered for him, while the boy’s eyes never wavered from the screen.

The boy ate one-handed and when he was done, his dad wrapped up his leftovers. Later, he pulled his coat on one arm at a time, using his free hand to keep playing.

I was astonished. It was beyond rude. I couldn’t believe for one second that a family would accept such unbelievably bad manners at dinner. It seemed completely and totally foreign to me.

Then, I took a good look around the room.

At the table next to the family, there were two couples who looked to be college-aged. Although they were laughing and interacting with each other, the two males had their phones out and were texting and calling other people during their dinner.

Next to them sat a table of four high school students who looked to have just gotten back from an audition at The World’s Most Attractive Teenagers. They were shined, glossed, and Abercrombie’d within an inch of their life. It was obvious they were friends – or maybe even dating – by how close they were sitting to each other.

However, each one had a phone out, their beautiful faces bathed in the blue neon glow of their respective screens. They spent their entire dinner with heads dropped low over their phones, silent as zombies, expect for the occasional outburst of OMG’s or LOL’s.

Directly behind me sat a couple in their mid-fifties. I suppose I was being a bit ageist when I assumed they, like us, would have an actual person-to-person conversation.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. They, too, whipped their phones out within minutes of sitting down and twittered back and forth about their Twitters.

Brett and I were both taken aback by the sheer volume of technology being actively used in our small dining area.

We have cell phones, of course. Neither of know how to text, so we don’t. Our phones are basic. They don’t take photos, or video, or support any internet functions. They’re just phones.

For, you know, talking to people.

Of course, at that moment it seemed, even in our out-of-the way restaurant, people didn’t want to talk to each other. At least not without some electronic distance.

I felt a little sad that the once comforting hubbub and hushed tones of friendly conversation were being replaced by the informal tickety-tack of texting.

But the times they are a changing, I suppose.

I also suppose there will come a time when all we have to do is flash a hand-held screen at our howling baby and have him conveniently lulled to sleep, so as not to disturb the other dinners.

You know, when it comes down to it, I think I’d rather have the screaming.

Ewe doesn’t always yike technology and the human factor it’s robbing from our civilization.

Ewe really doesn’t.


a joyful nusiance said...

I have to say that I LOVE texting, just ask anyone that spends any time with me.
But I do have to agree with you, it is sort of taking over.

Alice said...

It is hard to go out to eat with babies and children. I'm surprised people take them out as much as they do--I find it quite unenjoyable.

The phone thing is weird too. Whatever happened to face-to-face conversation with, you know, words?!

Heidi said...

I pay 5.00 for texting and rarely use it. When I have not paid 5.00 for the service I use it a lot.
You never know, God might give you a squaller to try your patience.
I have been fortunate so far that mine have been very good in that area.
I try not to use my phone when out in public at a restaurant as I think it is rude.
As far as the game thing, that is annoying. See kids walking around stores, at restaurants, etc... with eyes glued to their hand held game systems. There has to be other things to occupy kids than that. No offense to any readers of A.M.s blog, but that is just my personal opinion.

How about sitting down in front of the tv to watch a show together and the other person sits with their phone on facebook the whole time. Talk about annoying. Then he says, "what was that, I missed something" and you have to rewind the show so he can see what he missed because he was on facebook.

JennieB said...

LOL!!! When Patience was a baby/toddler I could never understand why people would glare at us when we brought her to a nice restaurant (esp in France). And Bob and I would both smile knowingly when we would leave at the end of a meal to rave reviews about how good and quiet she was!b However, now-a-days I sympathize most with the parents of the loud talker and have wanted to offer such announcements (“Well, he was good last time. You all should have been here then.”)at the end of some meals! :-) ..... for you sakes I hope Sammy has a quiet disposition! :-)

As to the texting.... well I text, but not at the expense of chatting face to face!!

Ann-Marie said...

I'm sure Sam won't be a perfect child or anything. I just hope I've learned through these types of experiences how to handle the situation - or how NOT to handle it, if that's the case. :-)

P.S. - And I'm sure I'll be eating some crow, as humility is a constant in-progress lesson in my life.