My girlfriend recently got a job working evenings at a bar, so sometimes I tag along after I leave the newspaper.
Bars are an odd environment, but I like them. Sure, I like beer just as much as any other guy, but they're neat little sociological experiments too, full of people trying to impress people for any number of reasons. People come, go and meet up. It's great to be a fly on the wall.
An awkward guy walked in and ordered a beer. He wrung his hands and chatted nervously with the bartender. A few minutes later, a girl came in, and the guy's complexion turned around. Whomever she was — date, wife or otherwise — prompted him to sit at a table, and they sat. Then they pulled out their phones.
Now, I'm not a luddite. I'm writing this on a laptop, not a Smith-Corona, and I use my cellphone to get news, email and check social media (and the occasional adorable kitten picture). But I try to draw the line at get-togethers with friends by putting the phone on silent and keeping it securely in my pocket. Sometimes I falter, but it's something to aspire to.
A month or so ago, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration put the kibosh on cellphone use amongst truckers. Given the sheer enormity of 18-wheelers, I suppose that's entirely fine. But barstools aren't 18-wheelers, and you're not going to crash if you hang up.
Most of the folks at the bar can get a conversation along just fine without a cellphone. You can check each others' faces without a Facebook. The only Twitter you'll hear is the cackling of the women who ordered another round of tequila shots. MySpace is at the counter, eating some peanuts and talking to the guy next to me.
But some just can't put the phone down. Some people are like cyborgs, part-human androids programmed to check their phones when some background music plays a similar pitch to their phone ring.
Put the phone down next time you're out with friends. I guarantee you'll survive.