I’ve told this story a few times recently so I feel obliged, internets, to tell it to you. And because I’m not yelling it at you across a crowded bar, I’ll even take the time to embellish it a bit; don’t say I never loved you.
I was reminded of it when I sat down to dinner last week with some fellow nerds and one of them put his phone on the table. So, of course, the next guy did, and the next one; I was reminded of my humble little anecdote which began much the same way.
A few years ago my friend Ben and I were sitting down to some late breakfast on a patio in the Byward Market and talking about nothing I can remember when two strapping young men sat down two tables over, presumably for the same.
In my memory of it I could see what was coming even before they sat down; something in their body language, and sometimes you just know. So as these two tanned, gym-buff and raybanned specimens took their seats there was a quiet pause; in a perfect world a tumbleweed would have rolled by just then, but it’s the Byward Market, so alas.
So, high noon at the Continental Bagel, one man pulled out his cellphone and put it on the table.
The other looked at it, nodded just a hair, and put his own cellphone on the table.
The first lifted an eyebrow, took out his PDA, and put it on the table next to his phone.
The other man glanced at it briefly and did the same. And then, freeze. A beat, a long pause, the tension is drawn out and fierce. If Sergio Leone had been running the show, this is when the faint sound of a harmonica would waft by as they sized up their technology and stared each other down, both of them very obviously struggling with the same question:
“Do I put my dick on this table, or not?”
Lucky for my lunch and everyone involved, after about eight seconds of this both of them seemed to snap out of it. But it really looked like a close thing; they visibly shook it off, and their relief was palpable. Then the waitress came by and took our orders, the little vignette ended and that was it, life moved along.
But now whenever I’m in a restaurant and people start the ritual of putting their cellphones on the table, I have a little voice in my head saying please, that’s good, that’s enough. We can stop there. I’m trying to eat.