Adventures of a Luddite
I try. I really try not to complain. And I definitely try not to appear like an uncool old fart who doesn’t get it.
Unfortunately, this is a big challenge, because there is an increasing number of things I just don’t get, and I was confronted by several of them this past weekend.
A group of us went to see a play on Saturday afternoon. Admittedly, going to a show in the middle of the afternoon is a pretty old fart thing to do, but there was a good reason.
It was a really good play. The story was great, the acting was great and I was following it intently. The climax was approaching. All the bad stuff was out in the open. Things couldn’t get any worse. How was the playwright going to pull the whole thing together and resolve everything?
Just then, for reasons I will never know, the lady in front and slightly to the right of me pulled out her cell phone and started texting. In the darkness of the theatre, the screen of her cell phone looked like a supernova. And the beeping buttons didn’t help.
Mercifully, an usher swooped in out of nowhere and told her to knock if off. Which she did.
The play ended, I still enjoyed it, but I’d missed a fairly important part of the dénouement.
The woman in question was old enough to know better, and old enough to have grown out of her ADD. So I have to wonder what possibly could have been so important. Did she know the play was nearing its end and decide to text in a pizza order? Or what?
Anyway, after the play we decided to have a walk around town and then go to dinner.
Well, you can’t just walk around town anymore and see the sights or window shop. You have to constantly be alert. Not for muggers, but to make sure you don’t run into the person walking in front of you who suddenly decides to stop and text.
I’m really getting tired of Tweets saying “I’m at 5th and Broadway, walking south.”
We found a promising restaurant and decided to give it a try.
There is a continuum of eating establishments, from fine dining on one end to fast food on the other. This was not a fine dining restaurant—for example, it didn’t have white tablecloths. In fact, there weren’t any tablecloths, but it was closer to fine dining than fast food. And the prices were definitely at the fine dining end of the continuum.
The staff was wonderfully friendly and the menu and the food were great.
So what’s to complain about, you ask.
The problem was that the music was so loud you could hardly carry on a conversation. And the music was very bad. While we are on the subject of continua it was toward the “noise” end of the music continuum.
So about halfway through our dinner, one of our party (not me, I hasten to point out) asked the maitre’d if she could turn the music down.
For one thing, we couldn’t carry on a conversation. And for another thing, it was freaking painful.
And this is the part I don’t get. She said, and I quote, “I’ll do it, but to be honest with you, we have it loud on purpose. One of the reasons people like to come here is because the music is so loud.”
Admittedly, my cochlea had been traumatized, but I’m sure I heard her correctly.
How do they know that? Do people walk out of the restaurant and say, “The food sucked. But we’ll definitely be back because the music is so loud.” Or “The food was good, but the music could have been louder. We’re not coming back.”
Am I wrong, but isn’t that almost like asking your dentist for novocaine and having him tell you that he doesn’t use it and that is the secret to his popularity.
I guess I’m just out of touch. I had the benighted and naïve impression that people go to a restaurant to relax, eat, and maybe even talk.
But I only had to look around the restaurant to realize how wrong I am. I didn’t see any relaxing. Eating was occurring, but seemed to be one of the lower priorities, and talking seemed limited to talking on the phone, talking to the staff or, in the case of parents, yelling at the kids (or at each other because they can’t agree on whether to yell at the kids).
Restaurant patrons exhibited three kinds of behaviour, depending on their age. Kids under 12 ran around, beat their silverware on the tables, or repeatedly went to the rest room. Kids from 13-18 stared into space with their iPod earphones buried in their ears, exuding the body language of people who are truly being made to suffer. And the adults texted or talked on their cell phones.
You heard right. Couples were sitting in front of plates of steaming food and texting. Each other? Their spouses? Their brokers? Their friends in the evening performance of the play? Who can say?
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting an increasing sense that lately everyone would rather be doing something other that what they are doing. Because they sure don’t seem to be engaged in what it is they are doing. In the past week or so, in addition to the behaviours mentioned above I’ve seen people texting while driving (it’s illegal down here, but what the heck, when you’re running late for a Starbucks meeting you do what you gotta do). I’ve heard, but fortunately not seen, people talking on their cell phones in public toilets, and seen a couple walking their dog while both were wearing earphones.
It doesn’t take an expert in analyzing body language to tell you that if someone sitting across from you is texting or listening to music, they aren’t particularly interested in you.
People putting up with that kind of behavior and spending time with people like that is another thing I don’t get. Maybe I need to spend more time on Facebook so I can learn how to interact with other human beings!