On My Soapbox Again…

The other evening while visiting friends in Northwest Indiana, I had dinner with a few of them in a beautiful Mexican restaurant in Munster, a building that used to be the Town Hall. The staff was wonderful, and the food was absolutely delicious and plentiful. I was, however, unable to ignore a trio of diners in a booth across from our table. Sitting there were a man, who appeared to be in his late twenties, a beautiful woman his age (perhaps his wife or girlfriend), and an elderly woman of great dignity, handsomely dressed. My attention was drawn to the three only because they seemed utterly disengaged each from the other two. The young man was texting furiously even after his dinner was brought to him, the younger woman was playing games on her cellphone, as the older woman sat patiently as though she were a complete stranger. Not a word was spoken within the trio, as the games and texting continued, fingers taking little breaks only to ingest bits of the lovely food that had been served. The three might as well have been in separate rooms, separate states, or separate countries. At the same time, there was a look of supreme boredom on each of the three faces, as though all were going through the motions of patience in being with their companions. I felt most sad for the elderly woman, who had no toy to play with or other person with whom to chat.

This scene I have noticed being played out over and over again in restaurants and waiting rooms almost everywhere I go over the past few years. From where does such boredom and terrible rudeness come? Why have electronic images, texting, and games taken precedence over other human beings, who are in the same room or at the same table? We are becoming more and more desensitized in being beguiled by little devices that make the rest of the world around us simply disappear. Though I don’t think people really intend to be callous, they seem unaware that such behavior is uncivil at best. Such discourtesy compromises who we are and who we can be in a society that is becoming increasingly “virtual” and impersonal, despite the unending messages by phone and computer companies that we are all “connected.”

I’d like to think that I’m not alone in my concern that simple manners and consideration for others around us are fading into a colossal discourtesy so prevalent that it is not even noticed anymore by most people under the age of forty. The group with whom I had dinner that evening also noticed the lack of etiquette at the other table and were as appalled as I was at the apparently hardened, unfeeling behavior that came from ignoring others at their shared table. I’m not sure what can be done about such numbed social graces, but I can hope only that most people can figure out for themselves that they need to treat their companions with more respect and more kindness than to show that a text message, electronic game, or cellphone call is more important than being human. Finally, the problem may not even be a matter of social correctness as much as an issue of being conscious of how we ourselves would like to be treated in the same circumstances.   JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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4 Responses to On My Soapbox Again…

  1. Cil P says:

    I totally agree with you. My husband and I go out on a date night every week and the rule is, unless we are expecting a call from a child, cell phones off or, better yet, they don’t even come into the restaurant with us. We do this and then we see exactly what you see all around us. It saddens us that it has become so difficult to talk with your date, to relate to others face to face, and to strengthen relationships by paying attention to one another. I’m not sure what we can do about it. I hesitate to say ‘education’ because these people will get educated the hard way eventually and would likely brush off any suggestions as old fashioned or technophobic. *sigh* Ah well. We need a brainstorming session!

    • John says:

      Well said! It encourages me so much to know that others are sensitive to these social issues, ones that many (especially young people) don’t even notice. There’s hope. Thanks for your comment. JB

  2. Randy Starewicz says:

    Amen, Brother!!! Love that restaurant, too, by the way! Glad you are home safe!

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