We were in the land of the zombies. But really, it was just a Starbucks on the lower east side.
It’s not often we venture back into the city since migrating to the suburbs five years ago. But we had tickets. To the theater. Ok, it was Blue Man Group, we’re not that cultured (but I did recently check The Opera off the bucket list as well). Either way, a return to the cement jungle was still a nice change of landscape.
We were early after our 10 block walk from the questionably legal parking spot, so we stopped in for a spot of tea (aka iced coffee and some caffeine free Frappuccino’s). After the Barista called our name (mispronounced, of course), we situated ourselves at a cozy table/bench setup and proceeded to “chill” as city dwellers would.
Only there was something different about our foursome. (Yes, we left Lark at home, don’t judge). We were staring into each others’ eyes- talking, laughing, sipping all the while. We were smiling, and enjoying the opportunity to make a memory out of something as simple as a quiet moment of togetherness. But that was just it. It was so quiet. Too much so, given the size of this particular neighborhood Starbucks.
There were plenty of people, it wasn’t about a lack of store traffic (which would be a big red flag in my line of work). There was a line to order, a line for the bathroom, bodies everywhere. But you could hear a pin drop in the dining area. Down to a person, every eyeball in the room was distracted and pointed toward a screen in front of them. Even the days of students doing homework on computers seemed to be gone by the wayside in preference of “phonework”. Blank stares, vacant souls, pointers swiping aimlessly at what one could only imagine to be various forms of social media. No one aware of their surroundings. Phones plugged into every available outlet in the place, so as to avoid losing their all important charge.
Besides identifying a sad state of affairs in today’s society, this travesty was also a great teaching moment, since just that morning we had surprised Finch with a new iPhone 8. Hypocrites that we are, we don’t want our son suffering anymore from being the only boy in 5th grade without a phone, as the taste of being the pedagogical have-not is still bitter in my mouth from my own childhood.
I don’t mean to be old fashioned. I don’t want to resist the future, because one way or the other I’ll eventually get dragged there. But I do think there is a way to model the right balance in using today’s tools responsibly. I do want my children to understand the importance of human interaction. I miss the caffeinated buzz of the old coffee shops (even those coffee shops themselves are practically extinct!). Tomorrow’s corporate executives, heck our world’s future global leaders, are currently being formed in the “quiet age”, and I worry a ton about what this dependency on screens means for how it will all go.
If I can teach my kids to converse pleasantly with others- be it their parents, their teachers, or complete strangers, in a world where others don’t even notice the existence of a friendly face on the coffee line or pretty girl sitting across the table, maybe that will give them a leg up in life?
I appreciate you reading my bloggy rants, but maybe it’s time we all look up for a minute and kill a few zombies?