Remember when we had cell phones just in case of an emergency and their only use was for talking? Now some are mini computers used to the point of dangerous, sometimes deadly distractions and something else I've noticed lately--they're now the go-to item to get many of us through socially awkward situations.
I was invited to a restaurant taste test last week. I arrived a few minutes early and was asked to sit down and wait until the moderator was ready to escort the group for the tasting. A few people were already seated and others were streaming in. You could hear a pin drop. Wait. I think I could hear dust floating it was so quiet. No one, including myself, spoke to each other. Instead, we were all in position. You know what I mean. Phone in hand, head down, eyes on the screen ... concentrating. I'm sure some were reading, some were texting, some were updating their social networks, some may have been scrolling down their contact lists, for all I know.
I'm sure some had legitimate reasons to be using their phones. But I have a strong feeling most were using their phones to avoid speaking to the strangers in the room. I mean, who really wants to have small talk with folks you'll probably never see again? We now have something to save us from the "Wow, it looks like it's going to storm." Or the, "Texas weather is so crazy in February, isn't it?" Or, "I'm kind of excited to be here. We get to taste food AND get paid to do it!" So now we cling to the impersonal device.
I confess, I was momentarily guilty. I texted Jason (he was outside with the kids) to let him know that it looked like we were getting started late. Then I looked up to see everyone looking down.
I wanted to say something to break the ice, but what? It just didn't seem like a friendly environment. To be fair, it was 7 p.m., a time when most of us are at home trying to unwind from our day. Exhausted, I ended up saying nothing just like everyone else.
I grew up with a mother who always carried on brief, pleasant conversations with pretty much anyone she came in contact with. It didn't matter--the cashier lady at the grocery store, the worker at the post office, other parents waiting to pick up the kids from school. Sometimes my siblings and I would be irritated when mom would strike up a conversation with someone when we were ready to leave. But now I remember the happy faces from the small talk and find myself doing the same thing. However, I wasn't that person that day last week. And I'm not particularly proud of myself.
Sure I know there are billions of more pressing issues to deal with. But I've decided that I'm going to avoid pulling out my phone the next time I'm feeling a little anti-social. You never know who you're going to meet and you never know what kind of information you'll walk away with. In fact, a cashier recently gave me a quick recipe idea as she was ringing up my groceries. It was a simple, kind gesture that would have been missed if I was staring at the screen of my phone.