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Adventures of a Luddite

July 6, 2010

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!

29 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2010 12:23 am

    Hey, on the bright side, people are still using low-tech methods to be ignorant asses. Just this weekend I was at the movies, but having a 3 year old using the row in front of me as a jungle gym made that rather taxing.

    • July 7, 2010 8:06 am

      Ha! You should have told his parents to give him a cell phone to keep him occupied!

  2. July 7, 2010 12:30 am

    My husband might have come into the kitchen a minute ago for a cup of coffee. I’m not sure. I was busy reading a blog.

  3. July 7, 2010 12:41 am

    If my brother would have had Facebook a few years ago he probably would have announced their newest pregnancy as soon as they crawled out of bed instead he called my Mom who called everyone else to announce that they were expecting a baby in 8 months.

    You’re not the only person who is trying to not be an uncool old fart. I still don’t understand my kids sleeping with their cellphones on within inches from their head. They are not employed in any kind of occupation that places them on 24 hour call. I think they could turn their phones off at night and limit their time on Facebook as well.

  4. July 7, 2010 2:08 am

    My research over the years about texting is that 4 out of every 6 teachers at the high school level don’t know or care if their students are texting.

    What an amazing message to send to our students (and the teacher doesn’t even need to text to deliver it).

  5. July 7, 2010 2:45 am

    My sister, the nun, teaches confirmation. The first day of class she put her phone number on the board and told the kids to pull out their phones and put her number in it so if they couldn’t make it to class to call her.

    After that was finished she put out her “Cell phone garage” and had her students place their phones in it on the desk during class each week. No exceptions!

  6. July 7, 2010 3:17 am

    This has been going on for years, but is getting worse. I remember this state of affairs in the Philippines ten years already (they were about 7 years ahead of America in texting). Now it’s everywhere.

    Nuisance and barbarism is one thing. Danger is quite another. They’re driving and texting…. while running Stop signs where … bikers are biking AND texting and …. pedestrians are crossing AND texting.

    I’m so hoping for a backlash.

  7. July 7, 2010 3:29 am

    This blog is very funny, and I laughed out loud, but unfortunately it is waaayy too true. In my old fartness I too am perplexed, and annoyed at having to put up with loud music in restaurants and listening to people on cells phones at adjacent tables.

    My interpretation of this new phenom is that we have embraced technology to avoid a real connection with ______fill in the blank, family members, friends, etc.

    I can really get going on this one but will perhaps blog about this myself as soon as I can get the attention from the waitress who is texting, walking and talking and,,,,

    I feel your pain.

  8. July 7, 2010 5:27 am

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some actors on stage check and send TMs while their backs are to the audience.

  9. July 7, 2010 8:57 am

    I would add in complaint that where I live many restaurants are adding televisions, and not just in the bar areas but in the restaurant proper. If you want to watch TV, stay home. Pick a lane.

    The triviality of “these things” especially grates on me. Feel free to text me “I’m on fire!” if you are but I don’t care if you’re bored, eating a sandwich, et cetera.

    I’m rooting for the untimely demise of whoever started these trends. And as for “backlash” I intend to carry my walking stick henceforth to give my stern glances more. . . persuasive power.

  10. Gail permalink
    July 7, 2010 8:03 pm

    Tom, our son gordon always gives Mia (13 months old) the mobile phone to play with on their way home from our place in the car. Last Tuesday night he wondered how he had 3 photos on the phone. No mean feat as his phone is complicated and buttons have to be pressed in a correct order. Heaven help us. Gail.

  11. Dan permalink
    July 8, 2010 10:30 pm

    I am curious about the restaurant-with-loud-music phenomenon. Blessedly, it doesn’t happen so much where I currently live (Prague) because Czech people are singularly uncool and unpreoccupied with being cool, and music in restaurants is generally about establishing a ‘cool’ atmosphere. At least, I think it is.

    Noisy restaurants used to drive me crazy when I San Francisco. It was my observation that restaurants generally don’t start playing music really loudly until they become trendy and popular. It’s unclear to me at this point what the thought process is– possibilities include:

    A. Playing loud music will make us more trendy
    B. Playing loud music is what our patrons want
    C. Loud music means people eat faster and there’s more turnover
    D. Loud music means people drink more booze (this is a proven fact)
    E. We the waiters are bored and haughty, so we’re playing the music loud for our own entertainment

  12. July 9, 2010 1:00 am

    I really wish that someone would invent (or make readily available) a device that would scramble a cell phone signal with 5 feet of my person. It would be glorious!

  13. July 9, 2010 2:19 am

    Let me know when you invent it or find one available somewhere. Sign me up!

  14. July 9, 2010 6:51 am

    You hit so many good points I don’t know where to begin. What is so important that people have to be constantly texting? “I’m watching a play.” Who cares?
    And as for people out for dinner together all texting other people, why is that not considered a big insult?

  15. July 9, 2010 8:18 am

    Texting other people while out to dinner or at any other activitiy is not considered an insult because as a society we are “etiquette poor”.

    When my dad worked for 3M before he retired they actually had to have a training session for their new young executives on how to conduct themselves at a dinner meeting and what was considered poor etiquette.

    I’m not talking about dinners in foreign countries but dinners with executives in the US. Apparently no one sits down to eat as a family and teaches proper etiquette anymore. This was before texting and cellphones.

    • July 9, 2010 9:04 am

      That’s it exactly. We shouldn’t be too surprised–after all David Niven and Audrey Hepburn have given way to Mike Tyson and Lady Gaga as role models.

      • July 13, 2010 12:26 pm

        I am happy to delight you with the news that you and Lady Gaga are totally simpatico. One of her latest hits features these lyrics:

        “It’s not that I don’t like you, I’m just kinda busy, and I am sick and tired of my phone ring-ringing….cuz I’m out in the club and I’m sipping that bub and you’re not gonna reach my telephone…”

        Here comes the backlash…

        PS. I only know this song because I have a teenage daughter…and I’m extra cool.

        • July 13, 2010 3:34 pm

          You have no idea how happy you have made me. I think Lady Gaga and I need to be friends on Facebook.

          You might want to check with your daughter and see if she can explain the different levels of cool portrayed by Lady Gaga vs. Kei$ha.

  16. July 9, 2010 9:07 am

    They aren’t my role models and will never be!

  17. July 10, 2010 1:27 am

    Amazing. You’d think a restaurant would be embarrassed to admit that music was even a consideration in people’s choosing to eat there.

  18. July 10, 2010 4:44 am

    I’m not old (next year, but not yet) and I can’t stand loud music in a shop or place to eat.

    If I want to hear club music and dance, I’ll go to a club.

    The SMSing doesn’t bother me as much. In fact I never use my phone for talking. It’s sole function is to SMS. I don’t use the itunes, the internet, or any other app. That makes me feel old 😉

  19. August 17, 2010 8:37 am

    Too funny. I especially related to the loud music in restaurant thing. Drives me crazy…and makes me feel OLD. You made me laugh out loud with the “the food was great but I won’t come back b/c the music wasn’t loud enough” line.

  20. August 17, 2010 8:47 am

    Thanks Nancy!

  21. March 25, 2011 3:19 am

    was cruising through your archives yes some of us do that) and found this gem…Loved it , hated the subject matter. seems like everybody theses days are living in the “next’ rather than present moment.

    • March 26, 2011 9:41 am

      Glad you enjoyed it! It doesn’t seem to be getting any better–I think the no cellphones on airplane rule is on its way out.

      Thanks for looking through the old stuff!

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