I go to have brunch at one of my favourite hangouts, right after church. Being Sunday, the small resto which serves breakfast meals 24/7 is filled and people keep trooping in. Diners already taking their meals do not seem to hurry.
I order an egg & mushroom omelette meal, a mug of brewed coffee, plus a slice of tuyo. As I wait, I become a bit self-conscious, as I didn’t bring my mobile phone to keep me company.
Perhaps, that’s one use of cell-phones – it keeps you from looking bored, boring, or like a pathetic sore thumb. Having one with you creates a safety net around you, keeping at bay unwanted intruders, or lets you blend with the rest of the nameless faces around you, all attached to that ubiquitous gadget in their hands.
So I let my eyes wander unobtrusively around the small confines of the café: a family just finished with their breakfast and soon leaves. A couple takes their place, locking themselves in an intimate chat with each other. To my left, a family of three is taking their sweet time. At the farther end of the room, another family squeezes themselves into the tiny corner, begin to peruse the menu, place their order, and start to converse animatedly.
In a short while, the family of three, perhaps aware of the growing number of customers coming in, gives way to a group of young cheerful friends. More diners stride in, some still drowsy from sleep – this café being inside our residential complex; others from the same community Mass earlier.
It’s a typical family day in this cozy nook, its ambience made warm, almost homey, by its dainty pastel-colored country-style décor and layout, combined with the aroma of appetizing food wafting from the small kitchen.
Despite being crowded at the moment, quiet engulfs the space amid the soft chattering of voices, and occasional clattering of utensils against plates.
In an instant, my eyes spot a man, all by himself, talking on his phone. He too waits for his order to be served. Shortly, his companion arrives. Looks like his wife. He acknowledges her arrival, but remains hooked to his phone.
Their meals are brought, but obviously, the man isn’t done yet with his call, nor has any intention of cutting it. As they commence eating, the man continues paying more attention to his friend at the other end of the line, rather than to the person in front of him.
I feel upset. I think how rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful of him to ignore her throughout their shared meal. Here she is having a meal together with her hubby at that small round table, yet the distance between them must be wide. I’m just imagining of course. She may know who the other person is, and the nature or urgency of that phone conversation?!? So she may understand. And it’s okay with her I guess.
The group of friends nearby are each on their phones, too, while talking or sharing a laugh or two. They seem to – well really enjoy each other’s company, even though their eyes are glued on the screen of their phones.
As with the rest of most people nowadays – this is a common scene, be it at home, at work, in the malls, or elsewhere.
One video comes to mind – that of a dolphin undersea who goes up to a diver, takes his hand, to rub his belly. We are used to domestic pets doing this. The point is, even animals yearn for interaction from humans, but humans are getting more and more inclined to create, enjoy virtual relationships – through their electronic gadgets.
What an utter sad, wrong way of using technology. Our mobiles/laptops/tablets/computers are meant to augment – never to replace or destroy — our face-to-face interactions. You hear of family members, texting each other, even though they are just there in their home. You see them eating together, almost mechanically because some seem more attentive to their phones than on the food, totally oblivious of their moms or dads or siblings.
Back in my time, our elders used to remind us, “Eating is like praying.” Sadly, the sacredness of family time today is marred by the intrusion of these electronic gadgets. Many families no longer communicate on a deeper, intimate level.
Communication gadgets are without doubt helpful in times of emergency, and when we are separated by physical distance from the important people in our lives.
Yet, how can strong, meaningful relationships ever thrive when communication is driven solely by technology? Where have good table manners gone? Well, just some food for thought, folks.
Oh, here comes my breakfast now. I’m asking for an additional order of fried garlic rice because I forget they serve two slices of buttered toast to go with the omelette. Hmmm, not good with the tuyo.