Last night, I went out for tasty food in glamorous Loudoun, at a restaurant I now consider the Eavesdropping Center of the Universe. First, there was the woman who ranted about her money problems for twenty minutes (I do not know if she was on the phone, or dining with an especially patient, or perhaps bound and gagged, partner). Oh, honey, if you’re responsible for paying your own bills (like, uh, most people), including the rent, cellphone, and Comcast, and it’s breaking you, then ditch the cable. Do you really, really need Flavor of Love? I know cable really helps pass the time when you’re unemployed, but really.
She left, and I was left with a few options. I could focus on my food, or my companion, or the music. Instead, the family next to us came in with the save.
Figuring out how they were all related kept me busy for fifteen minutes. My best guess was that it was Grandpa, Mom, Single/Possibly Gay Uncle, and Kid One (late teens) and Kid Two (eightish/nineish). It was also possible, due to group dynamics, that Kid One was actually much older, just a sloppy dresser, and the mother or aunt of Kid Two. Anyhow, they were all out for a nice dinner together, to celebrate the visit of Single/Possibly Gay Uncle. And maybe Grandpa. I don’t know if he was local or not.
Anyone who has ever been a kid knows one thing: family dinners are tedious, creepingly slow death. You have to sit still. You must use utensils. You will not be allowed to punctuate every sentence with armpit farts. Worst of all, you must listen to grownups talk about the sort of things even grownups find skull-crushingly dull.
But the Kids had a solution: technology! Kid One was listening to music on her iPod (yes, at the dinner table). Kid Two was watching a movie on his iPod (yes, again, at the dinner table). Kid One eventually unplugged, however, Kid Two kept his earbuds in while ordering, eating, conversing with the waitress, and mostly…while he sat there, sulked and watched a movie.
Mom, Grandpa, even Kid One tried to get him to actually participate in the dinner. Or, at least, to stop watching his movie and take his sulking acoustic. No dice.
This brings me back to why I'm so worried: if we do not teach the children of America how to sit around a table, in polite silence, but so bored they want to scream or bang their heads into a wall, how are they ever going to get by in the business world? They’ll combust at their very first department meeting, the economy will collapse, and we’ll all be reduced to selling fruit at the intersections of the world.
So, parents, please, teach your children well. Make them unplug, then bore the crap out of them. America is counting on you!
PS – No, I don’t have kids. But I will point out that, long ago, I was a kid, and no, we did NOT wear headphones at the dinner table. Ever. I mean, really.