In the days before we had cell phones, Walt and I would often grumble about people in restaurants, enjoying a perfectly nice meal together, totally ignoring each other and, instead, concentrating on their cell phones. Mostly these were young people. Certainly people our age wouldn't be that rude.
But then we got cell phones. I remember the first time, when we were eating dinner at a Mels Drive-In in downtown San Francisco (despite the name, the "drive-in" is actually an indoor restaurant). We were waiting for our food and I realized that we were each on our cell phones. I was probably checking in with Four Square and Walt was probably writing or checking e-mail.
As time has passed, I have watched when I am in crowds of people. People on the bus are absorbed in their cell phones, people on BART in San Francisco definitely. The noise level in the cheaper restaurants is less because nobody is actually talking. They are all doing something on their hand held devices.
I have learned lately that e-mail is passé and the new communication is by tweets. Obviously we no longer know how to communicate in more than 140 characters.
(Of course, I'm 70 so by the time people read this I will have learned that Twitter is becoming obsolete and there is some new form of communication out there.)
I thought I had seen it all until I went to a party tonight. It was a lovely holiday party, hosted by the folks who own the book store where I volunteer. We volunteers work our four hour shifts but we never interact because we work alone and if I work on Thursday afternoon, for example, I don't have a clue who works on Saturday morning or any other afternoon. Even owner Peter was trying to find out about the week end crew because he doesn't work on the week ends, and so he doesn't know them.
The party at this time of year is the one chance we have to get to know each other, a little bit. Walt found that a woman he sees at wine tasting all the time is a volunteer at Logos, so they already had something in common.
I was sitting in a group of about eight people, all of us sipping our delicious pumpkin soup and sampling the home made sweets, nibbling off the shrimp platter and, for the health conscious, even digging into the veggie bowl.
Our conversation was eclectic. I learned a lot about chickens, for example. I never knew that chickens don't lay eggs in the wintertime. Their butts apparently go into hibernation, but not the first laying year because they are still young and their hormones are raging and they don't know about the hibernation bit. I also discover that chickens make noise when laying an egg. I'm kinda glad to hear that. It's nice to know that even a chicken has to protest when pushing something that large and hard out of her nether regions. They probably don't know about panting and blowing...
I also learned that some roosters don't know when to crow. It's a myth that all roosters crow to greet the sunrise. Some roosters crow at 2 a.m., or 2 p.m. in the afternoon. I'm not sure how you train a rooster to crow at a certain time of day. There are no reset or snooze alarm buttons on a rooster. Apparently the person who had the rooster that crowed at the wrong time moved the bird to a farm out in the country where he could crow all he wanted whenever he wanted and bother only the cows.
We also talked about Christmas markets in Germany, since one of the volunteers had just returned from a trip to Germany and had experienced the markets, and I learned that while much of Europe has these Christmas markets, France does not. Those French always have to be different anyway.
But in the middle of all this nice chit chat, I looked at one couple who were sitting in the middle of all this and looking at their cell phone. They were looking up stuff and chatting with each other about it. It wasn't just for a few minutes. They went on and on and on while conversation swirled around them and they ignored all of us and were into their own little cyber world.
You might think that this couple were young, but no--they were our age. I couldn't believe how rude this appeared to me, and I would think to others around them. Why would you go to a party and spend your time on your smart phone? Heck, even I wouldn't think of doing that, and I'm on some sort of communication device all the time, but my smart phone was in my purse in the back bedroom and I was making an effort to get involved in the conversation (something that is not always easy for me to do!)
In spite of the rudeness of two people, we had a lovely time at the party, and what a nice thing to do. We went to this party last year too, only I got the date wrong and we arrived a week early. I was very embarrassed. But I got the date right this year.