I have a friend; let’s call her Gretchen. We meet once a month for a lunch date, and EVERY time it’s the same thing: When she walks my way, she already has her cell phone squeezed between her hand and her ear, and when I say hi, she acknowledges me with a smile, covers the phone with her hand and says she’s “almost done.” A couple of minutes go by, and I alternate between reading the menu for the fourth time and looking at the ceiling.
I start to ask myself why I put myself through this awkward torture every month, but then I remember she’s one of my best friends and she’s always there for me. She might be rude as shit, but she has a good heart and has my back. Maybe I’m being too sensitive to this type of technology that’s become the extension of our fingers. After all, I have an iPhone too and I check my emails more often than not.
So. I clear my throat a couple of times and cling to that positive outlook, and she gets off the phone with a brief explanation. Really, it’s just a formality because I doubt in her mind she’s doing anything wrong. We order our food and start talking. Finally, I relax. But not for long…
Her phone rings again. She glances at her screen and says, “I have to take this. It’s my friend from Germany. She’s divorcing. We’ve been playing phone tag.” Sure. She always has all kinds of stories for talking on the phone in my presence, which by her logic would make me an insensitive cow for complaining. I politely nod and she answers the phone. However, after I sit in front of her without acknowledgement for over TWENTY minutes, I start to get antsy. I already have eaten all the sourdough bread, had my Sprite refilled twice, and made small talk with the waiter. Really, there’s only so much you can say about the weather.
The waiter gives her a couple of dirty looks too, which encourages me to roll my eyes. I wish I had brought my Kindle or something. She finally gets off the phone and tells me her friend’s whole story, which shaves another ten minutes off our lunch. Our dishes come, and we start chewing. Then someone calls her. She glances at the screen and promises she won’t take it. I wonder: Is that really necessary? The person insists and calls yet again, and this time she answers and engages in a brief talk about something quite boring. Perhaps next time I should just call Gretchen from across the table, that might work. Really.
Maybe there should be rules about when we can and can’t use electronic gadgets when we’re with someone. A brief phone call or a couple of texts is fine by me. But to hear the buzzing of text messages throughout a whole conversation…er, not necessary.
We all have jobs and busy lives, and nowadays we can no longer hide from technology. We have to embrace it and make ourselves available. I get that. But shouldn’t we draw the line somewhere?
I’ve heard of restaurants where you have to do leave your phone at the entrance with the hostess before going inside to enjoy lunch technology-free. The hostess will call you if you get an emergency call. Tell me if that doesn’t sound great…or am I too uptight?