The other night we drove to the Sierra Madre Playhouse to attend the production of “4,000 Miles.” We left home at 6:00, planning to have dinner at a local restaurant in the town before attending the show. Our friend, Mimi Cozzens, one of the show’s stars, had told us there were a lot of dining options there. The drive wasn’t bad for a Friday heading toward Pasadena, and we found a little Italian bistro diagonally across the street from the theatre. It was about 7:00 when we arrived, and the waiter assured me that he could get us to the theatre by 8:00PM. Through the window of the restaurant, we could see the loopy green neon letters spelling “Playhouse” on the facade of the theatre.
The restaurant was quite full, families and friends deep in conversation, laughing and unwinding after a week of work. The table right next to us filled immediately after we arrived. A family of six, two parents, and four children ranging in age from high chair toddler to old-enough-to-know-better-than-Mom-and-Dad. But the most striking thing about them was that five out of six of them were sitting at the table, and they were all looking into their cell phones. All, that is, except Mom, who was basically very alone.
I looked across at Jimmie, and indicated with a sharp head wag that he should look over to the table to our right. He did, eyes widening as he observed what had caught my attention. They were deeply engaged with their devices. Even the toddler was playing a game, probably on Mom’s phone, hence her digital solitude. Jimmie indicated that behind me at another table were two young girls playing games on their phones, their parents talking while the digital sitter kept the children quiet.
The play was great, our friend Mimi alternately funny and touching. It was a very professional production, though the theatre was a bit on the cold side.
Later when we talked about the family at the table next to us, Jimmie asked with true befuddlement- “What are they looking for?” And I found myself unable to answer. What are we looking for when we pick up our phones in the middle of a family dinner? When I was a kid we ignored the phone when it rang at dinner time. If we tried to go answer it, we got in a heap o’ trouble. Now, it is easy to find a teenager with his/her phone under the table, eyes forward, texting secretly while carrying on the charade of a conversation with his/her parents.
The next day, we went to celebrate a belated birthday with our dear friend, Jason. After visiting with him, we walked back out to the car. I was juggling my phone, the empty Ralph’s bag, my purse, and while I fumbled for my keys, my cell phone slipped out of my hand and landed face down on the pavement. I bent over to retrieve it, turned it over, and was dismayed to see that the face of the phone had smashed, scored with a radiating pattern of destructive veins reaching to all four corners of the face. I pressed the home button and it lit up, but every time I tried to swipe my thumb across the face, it snagged at the dry skin on my thumb.
“Shit Shit Shit. I broke my phone!” And I looked up at Jimmie, while trying to get the trunk open. He looked at me, aware of my distress, but like his earlier question, “What are they looking for?” he didn’t really have any idea of why I was so upset. I fumed for about 20 minutes, muttering under my breath about my own stupidity, until I realized that there really wasn’t any point in getting so exercised about it. We went on about the rest of our afternoon – a trip to the Nail Salon on 9th, then home, where I cooked us a healthy dinner.
Sunday morning, I made a pilgrimage to the Apple Shrine at the Grove. It seemed appropriate that I arrived at 11:00AM on a Sunday morning. It felt a little like going to church to atone for my sin of clutziness. The Apple Genii lined the top of the acrylic staircase, a vision in blue; angels with iPads poised to assist. A young blond genius greeted me with kind eyes.”What brings you here?” Mutely, I turned the wounded face of my magic pocket computer up to her eye level. She made a sad face and then checked me in, urging me to sit at the bar where someone would be along to help me. Genius Evan came along soon and walked me through the exchange of my broken friend for a new one and within 20 minutes and only about $118 lighter, I left the store, a spring back in my step.
I still don’t know what we are all looking for from our devices. You can call me shallow and no doubt will, but it sure felt good to be reunited with my unblemished iPhone on a Sunday morning.