Regular readers know of my love/hate relationship with the cellphone. My most recent post about them was back in February. Bear with me as I address the subject yet again.
I understand that cellphones are indispensable, and their proliferation is becoming more widespread. But I still think there should be limits. And currently society seems so infatuated and enamored with these little technological marvels that there seem to be no limits at all on their use.
Three of us were going out to eat this past Friday night: Erik, who is 35; Mark, who is 30, and antediluvian, 55 year-old me. The establishment of choice was the popular-if-overrated Bonefish, a chain which has from its opening 6 years ago enjoyed tremendous success in Pensacola’s fickle restaurant industry. On the weekend it’s always jammed, with the wait for a table sometimes as much as 45 minutes to an hour.
Erik said that he’d probably be late or might not even come, which is typical of him. I had planned on leaving my phone in my car, but against my better judgment brought it into the restaurant since I wanted to hear from Erik. Sure enough, he texted me that he was on his way just as Mark and I were being seated after a 30-minute wait. (My friends don’t actually use their cellphones as phones anymore. All they do is text each other.)
We ordered our drinks, and then while perusing the menu Mark began a lengthy texting session with a girlfriend. The waitress eventually came back and I spent some time with her discussing the appetizers and specials and such. Since Mark was still so immersed in what he was doing that he was oblivious to us, I ordered the appetizers. The waitress and I both looked and him rolled our eyes.
When Mark finally disengaged from his phone, he looked up with that expression on his face of someone who has just walked into a room, or had just woken up from a nap. “Oh, you’re back!” I said sarcastically. “I’m sorry,” he said with a smirk. “What appetizers should we order?” I told him that I had already ordered them. And of course, one of the two was unacceptable, so we had to call the waitress back and re-order.
Just about then Erik arrived. Claiming to not be hungry, he just ordered a glass of wine. His cellphone is always out, and he set it down on the table in front of him. But he would pick it up every couple of seconds as he was carrying on some Facebook “conversations” with friends. Mark too would periodically consult his phone for incoming messages. At times I felt as if I was dining alone.
You can tell people that they’re being rude, but the trouble is, young people (even supposedly grown men in their 30’s) do not see it as such. And you cannot convince them of it. They just laugh. Ha-ha, it's not rude! Yes, it is. And if I push the issue, then I'm the one being rude. Of course! Why didn't I see that?
I finished my meal quickly. We paid the bill and left. We split up cordially. I did not return my friends’ rudeness. I've really tried to not let inappropriate cellphone use make me angry, but fuck it, I’m done. I’m done associating with people who cannot separate their online or digital lives with reality. I’m done being with people who cannot lay their damn cellphones down for a single hour while they have dinner with someone else. (And also, I'm done being nice about it. Next time I'm in a similar social setting with people who are so obsessed with their phones, I'm simply going to leave.)
My new rule is that I’m not hanging out with anyone under age 40 anymore. It seems so “old fogey” of me, I know. But I’ve just reached my limit - had it up to here, as it were.
But wait! As it turns out, even that won’t work.
Ironically, a couple of days into the new week I had lunch with a fairly successful realtor here in town who is in his mid-40s. During lunch, even he kept pulling out his Blackberry to check it for messages and send texts. He would apologize each time, but he kept doing it. And when he wasn't actually using it, he'd put it on the seat next to him so he wouldn't have to keep fishing it out of his pocket.
I thought our infatuation with the cellphone would eventually abate. But I was wrong. People keep finding new uses for these…I guess we have to call them “personal communication devices” now. They are not considered an intrusion, and people feel no compunction whatsoever about whipping 'em out anywhere, anytime. So I’m fighting a losing battle, I know. There is no going back. Society has changed, and the cellphone is simply going to be a part of every aspect of our lives, like it or not.
And I don’t.