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The Phone Bowl

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Someone has already designed a device for tables across America, I just know it. They’re calling it, “Tables Across America”, which sounds a little like “Doctors Without Borders” doesn’t it? Tables include those at home, cafes, cafeterias and full fare restaurants. Tables Across America is societal helping movement sweeping the country. Or it should be. And when it happens, I’ll say, “Great idea, wished I’d thought of it.” Which, obviously, I did. Right here. But I don’t have the investors to back me. I haven’t even tried, so it’s fine, we don’t need another project right now in this White house.

It makes me sad to see people at tables with other people – often loved ones –  sharing precious time together. But not really, because one or both or all seven of them are on the phone. I understand the many reasons for this habit: families in a courthouse cafe are awaiting a verdict on their loved one’s trial; another family, in a hospital cafeteria, is waiting for a surgical update. Maybe a couple is waiting to hear from their college student as he or she arrived in Bejing. But I doubt it. It’s mostly chatter.

We’re texting about where to meet in tonight or the crabby office secretary today. We even ordered a pair of compression socks for our elderly mother on Amazon. It’s sooooooo easy, right? But so damaging to communication. It was difficult to carve out an hour for lunch with our favorite person, only to be muted by time on our phones. Why did we even bother?

Jeff got really ticked one time when I was on my phone, while out to eat. I thought I was being entertaining, as I was texting back and forth with our daughter. Since I was sharing bits of the conversation with him, I thought that didn’t count, even though it was funny stuff. I was the only one laughing. He was seething.

So, what’s the phone bowl? It’s not a big football championship at the end of the season, sponsored by AT&T. Nope, it’s more like a salad bowl, right in the middle of the table. The table has been wired through the bottom of the bowl, with multiple ports cords. These connect phones (yes, some people carry two: personal and office) to a charger. The caveat: touch your phone during your table time at the table and terrible things happen to your phone. For example: your contacts will be lost. POOF! Just. Like. That. Why is that terrible? Because everybody over forty remembers their parents home phone number. Heck, I still remember Gail Grayson’s number from Junior High: 223-3493. And Jeff’s office Edward Jones Ohio number from 1978: 599-3110. But I can’t remember any cell numbers. It’s pathetic. That’s why it would be such a pain in the ass.

It’d be like this: I locked my phone and keys in the car at the compost pile recently. There were three family phone numbers I could remember. None of these would be available to rescue me.  A couple, parked next to me, offered their phone. I had no numbers in my head after immediate family. I gave the phone back and said, “Thanks, there’s no point.” This is a small-ish town, and most of us are trusting. The pickup truck people offered me a ride home. I took it. While in their back seat, gushing gratitude, I realized that I’d accepted a ride with two perfect strangers! We played home-town geography, and they were the ex-in-laws of a co-worker. This made it okay. (?) Which seems really random.

Whether someone invents a table bowl where we risk losing our contacts or not, aren’t we at just at great of risk of losing our contacts in person, when we don’t personally interact? Like driving, we should just hang up. The table is a crucial place to start. Let’s teach our children how to talk again. Imagine if nobody had talked in the bar Cheers.  Nobody’d know your name. The bartender would be so bored. “Talk to us. With us. At us”.

 

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