Monday, July 26, 2010

If we can carry our entertainment with us why should we ever leave the house?

Kara and I went out to dinner on Friday because of the unbearable combination of 89 degrees F and 83% humidity and lacking air conditioning in our apartment thus rendering any cooking or dining experience frankly impossible to even comprehend.
The restaurant, as it was a chain and doesn’t really need the name-drop advertising, and I don’t think the following described behavior would change that much from where we were which was sitting in the waiting area of said restaurant watching the board for our number, chatting through the blasting Americana while also people-watching.
All told there was about 20-30 people that were filtered through the seating area. We were seated toward the far end of the waiting area so that the hostess area was to our right and the end of the waiting area to our left with the outside windows directly in front of us. There was one couple to our immediate left and a father and daughter diagonally across from us with all other stomach-led transients filling in respectively. Since this is a chain restaurant there was a ceiling mounted TV in the left hand corner of the room which was mercifully muted so as not to compete with the thumping speakers.
It was interesting to watch people in this context because this couple to our immediate left were, as far as we could tell, interacting with their cell phones for pretty much the entire time Kara and I sat there.
Even when the guy had gotten up to try to win a stuffed animal from the claw machine under the TV and succeeded in only very quickly losing two dollars which not only failed to elicit any sort of laughter from his female counterpart but also failed to elicit her interest from the poker game she was playing which we could see because the screen was titled in our direction. Other than the claw playing, this couple was not that engrossing except by what seemed to be an intense lack of interest in the other. Eventually my attention was drawn away in other directions to the father and daughter sitting on the other side of the waiting hallway directly across from the cell couple and the father had his phone out and was hunched over the screen the entire 10-15 minutes that they were waiting for a table. And the daughter, who lacked her own portable screen is slouched watching the TV because well, what else is there to do since her father is finding her presence not nearly as fascinating as the 3”x8” screen between his palms. And granted this was not the norm in the waiting room as there were rowdy conversations and family conversations and other couple conversations and our own conversations and seatmate conversations but these people stuck out because they were so absorbed in their own little worlds and the father and his daughter left to and were replaced by a mother and son whom, immediately upon sitting down, the son whipped out his cell phone.

Earlier that day I had read this quotefrom Gary Shteyngart and it seemed/still seems frighteningly apt.
“ We can’t keep up with the technology we’ve created, and it’s like we were invaded by a barbarian horde and we don’t know what to do. Sometimes I think that the iPhone and everything else that is now a major part of my life is a punishment that I’ve inflicted on myself for sins that I can’t quantify. This is maybe—I don’t know—going back to Hebrew school, but since the iPhone came out, my life has gotten progressively worse. I land on a plane and I get nervous if my iPhone—my äppärät—can’t connect. It’s like I’m running a Fortune 500 company. “

What communication or connection are we so afraid of missing?
If we can carry our entertainment with us why should we ever leave the house?

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