Monday, May 4, 2015

Hang Up And Dine

Saturday night I had the rare privilege of an evening off from work. It was prom night and I had taken the night off to help ensure my daughter's hair was properly coiffed and her make-up appropriately applied and pictures were snapped in fitting abundance. After the flowers were pinned, photos uploaded, and the smiling couple were off to dinner, I found myself completely free of obligations... and the night was still young.

How does a forty-something mother of four party it up on a Saturday night? She straps on heels and heads to Chili's with her hubby for their 2-for-$20 dinner special. This mama knows how to get her hootenanny on!

We were seated rather quickly in spite of our lack of reservations (but it's Chili's for Chrissake... do they even take reservations? It's more like a dining assembly line than an actual restaurant), right behind an obviously prom-going young couple. The fake jewels, gaudy up-do, and cummerbund gave them away.

They looked sharp, too. The guy had gone all out. He even had spats!

The girl had put some extra effort in, too. She had mastered the winged eyeliner and was rocking some fake lashes.

They had obviously gone the extra mile to make it a night to remember!

Only the two of them never looked up from their phones.

Through the appetizer, and the main course, and dessert they honestly spoke fewer than a dozen actual words to one another. Their fingers swiped and scrolled and texted through the entire meal as they nibbled fries and slouched in their seats. I wonder if they even looked at their food (although chances are good that they had snapped some pictures of their meal for Instagram). They seemed completely unaware of their surroundings, hunched like Igor over their screens, as if their phones were some macabre unrelenting appendage.

I thought, "Please, please don't let my daughter be doing this right now."

It made me feel so incredibly sad. Sad that this beautiful young couple's entire night would probably be viewed filtered through the screens of their smartphones. I wanted to scream at them, "Look up from your stupid phone for just a minute! There is a real, breathing, beautiful person sitting right in front of you, someone you should be talking with and laughing with, someone that might actually look into your eyes if they could just look up from their own damned phone!"

Photo credit: Gerd Altmann
If they could disconnect for just a minute, they might actually be able to really connect with the person sitting across the table. Because here's a news flash: There is no one inside that phone. It's empty. There's nothing there, and if that's the only interaction they ever have, they're going to be left empty, too.

When the waitress brought their bill, the guy asked if she would snap a picture with his phone. In spite of the crowd of conveyor belt diners the frazzled server had waiting for her attention, she agreed. (The flash would surely have irritated other diners if they hadn't also been glued to their phones.) I was surprised that the prom couple was able to focus attention on someone else for just a few short moments... but the waitress did have a phone in her hand... and it occurred to me that even as they gazed up from their electronic devices, their attention was still focused on ... well, another electronic device.

As the waitress walked away with what was probably a pretty shitty tip (I've worked prom night. I know how terrible high school students tip) the lovely couple that had been so lively and aware for their photo shoot, drooped back down in their seats and were once again captivated by their screens. They were no doubt posting pictures to their various social media accounts so all of their friends could see what a magnificent time they were having.

Which made me wonder what they will remember about prom night twenty years from now. When they look back at all of those pictures of their smiling faces, what will they think? Will they remember what a good time they had or will they only remember the pictures they posted? Will they have any actual memories outside of the false ones that were captured in digital pictures? Will they remember their status updates and Snapchats and text conversations? Will there be any real memories or just the fabricated electronic ones?

I hope beyond hoping that that young couple eventually made it to prom and that they were able to put down their phones for at least a few minutes. I hope that they danced until they were sweaty and breathless and the girl's eyelashes fell askew. I hope they laughed, not at something funny someone posted online, but because someone started a ridiculous conga line, where hands touched real people, skin on skin, and not just images of people on an electronic touch screen.

I hope they made eye contact and savored the taste of too-sweet prom punch. I hope she smelled the flowers on her wrist and her date's overly abundant aftershave. I hope they paused at least long enough to feel the music thrum through their bodies until they just couldn't sit still anymore.

And I hope they kissed. I hope for just one night they found themselves alive, vibrantly beautifully breathlessly alive. I hope they made real memories... the kind that linger in your mind and on your skin for years. The kind that aren't just trapped in social media profiles. The kind that aren't lies for a constructed image, but the kind that leave feelings, feelings that will stay with you even if you live long enough that your brain becomes addled with old age.

I hope, for the love of God, that they just put down their fucking phones.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is why I barely take my phone with me.
The people today do not know how to enjoy the moment. They always need something to do.
Once one has learned to enjoy the moment, then there is no moment in your future, where you are actually bored. If you do have one those moments "of being bored", it is because you are distracted by something, that is making you bored, and not the moment itself.