Phones In Restaurants: Less Welcome Than Cockroaches

By BOB WIRE If you’re sitting with someone in a restaurant, reading this blog on your phone, I hope the waitress spills a pot of scalding coffee all over your naughty bits. And your phone.

Hey, you’re in a restaurant! Put the phone away. You may have seen this link on Facebook recently. It’s about a New York City restaurant that used security videos from ten years ago to try and find out why wait times are so much longer now than then. In a nutshell, they found that the main problem is assholes with phones.

People take multiple photos of their food, then send the food back because it’s cold. They ask servers to take photos of them with their fellow diners, then complain that the service is too slow. They spend twenty minutes dicking around on their phones from the moment they are seated, not even cracking the menu while other diners wait for a table.

This isn’t a new problem, and it only one of the ways cell phones are turning us into a culture of self-absorbed zombies, but as someone who has done his time waiting tables, I’m tired of seeing it. Social media and smartphones have created the ideal outlet for our narcissistic society. Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook let us document and broadcast every dull crumb of minutiae from our mundane lives, and man, do we think we’re fascinating!

Getting back to the restaurant problem–it’s important to document events like birthday and anniversary celebrations, meetings with long lost friends, or the last meal you’ll share with your wife before you go off to serve a ten-year jolt for wire fraud. As Roen Hoek once sang, “Memories…”

But if you think anyone is dying to see a snapshot of your Denny’s Bacon Slamburger, you are deluded. If I want to see a picture of a Denny’s Bacon Slamburger I’ll go to Denny’s and look at the menu. If you can manage to pull your head out of the bubble of your own world for a few seconds, try to put this into perspective. Is your life so empty that a half-eaten Taco Bell Crunch Wrap warrants documentation and immediate distribution? Seriously, do you give a snake fart about what someone you never met is consuming at any given moment? If you do, well, you’re even more desperately boring than most of us. Welcome to Denny’s.

I’ll admit that I’m not entirely above this bad restaurant behavior. A while back I snapped a picture of a dinner I’d ordered at a place called the “OK Cafe” in Western Montana, and posted it on Facebook. The photo was meant to illustrate my point about the food not quite living up to the restaurant’s name. Ha ha. Get it? It wasn’t meant to say, “Look at the food I’m about to eat!” or worse, “Look at the remnants of the food I just ate!”

I tell you, I’m so fed up with the proliferation of food photos and the willful ignorance of people who post them, I think I might start posting photos of my first crap of the day. “Oh, look, it’s the exact size and shape of my lower intestine! ROFLMAO! WTF! YOLO!”

Forkin'-Knife

I blew my entire paycheck on an iPhone 6, so I can’t afford to order any food. But check out this awesome silverware! (Bonus: Can you name therestaurant?)

Here’s another consideration: when you interrupt your meal to snap a photo of your food and post it on the internet, it waters down your own dining experience. This summer Barb and I had a fantastic meal at a Mexican restaurant in Cody, Wyoming. I ordered the chile verde. I always order the chile verde, hoping to find that long lost taste that blew my mind at Armando’s Restaurant in Twentynine Palms, back in the late ’70s. One bite of this chile verde in Cody, and I knew I’d found it. They nailed it. It was beautiful. It was Armando’s reborn. And yet, I resisted the temptation to take a picture of it and share my little personal epiphany on social media.

Because it’s my memory, and it lives vividly in my head. It would have no meaning to anyone else (even to Barb, who though I was crying because of the habañero sauce).

The hard truth that is ignored by most over-sharing phone junkies is this:

  • 1. You are not nearly as interesting as you think you are.
  • 2. Others are not thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are.
  • 3. Although you are the center of the universe, everyone else thinks they are too.

Once smartphones became prevalent, true socialization was doomed. Anywhere you go in public, whether it’s a restaurant, a bus stop, a concert or a PTA meeting, one look around will tell you that most people find real life less interesting than what’s displayed on their cell phone screens.

Of course I’m not the first person to express his annoyance with cell phone zombies, and although I’m relatively new to the smartphone scene, I’ve been guilty of rude and antisocial behavior from time to time by ignoring the people I’m with to deal with something on my phone. But I’m usually aware that I’m being rude, and I apologize or excuse myself. Most people I see who are glued to their phones to the exclusion of the world around them seem oblivious to their self-banishment from society. For younger generations who never knew a world without internet, the online world IS their society. I have a special pity for those who prefer to scroll through Pinterest collections of colorful autumn leaves rather than look away from their phones and see the real thing. I shake my head when I see a group of kids hanging out, but ignoring each other while stumbling around, eyes glued to their devices.

You might take this as an anti-smartphone rant, and you’d be wrong. Smartphones are amazing. They’re wonderful. They’re the biggest game-changer I’ve seen since the they started perforating toilet paper. If you’re old enough to have grown up in a world where “Funk and Wagnalls” was the last word in comprehensive information on any subject, you can appreciate the utterly mind-blowing concept that virtually all the world’s history and information is at your fingertips, available instantly. You can carry around a universe of entertainment in your pocket, for the price of a few bucks a month you pay for a data plan.

If you’d rather watch others live life on your phone than actually live it yourself, just stay home. Restaurant servers, cashiers, baristas, pretty much anyone who interacts with a paying customer, they’re frustrated, annoyed, and tired of having to deal with the rude, thoughtless behavior that’s sprung up around the use of these miracles of technology. If you want to go through life letting your phone lead you around by the nose, that’s your prerogative, but when you’re at a restaurant, the people you’re with and the staff who serves you deserve your attention more than your phone does. Even if it is smarter than you are.

 

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an openmind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.

 

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