Just a Thought: May 11, 2016

Category:  Just a Thought
Wednesday, May 11th, 2016 at 10:15 AM
Just a Thought: May 11, 2016 by Katie Chriest
David van der Mark on flickr

Johnny Depp smuggled his dogs. Chrysler has deemed itself “America’s Import” (whatever that means). I should try the newest Snickers today. It’s available inside.

These are a few of the things I learned while fueling up, now that some gas stations have TVs in the pumps.

I also learned the current weather conditions. Of course, I was quite privy to that information, seeing as how I was outside. In the weather. Currently.

Banks have also embraced screens. As I waited for a teller to process my deposit, I watched a slickly-produced infomercial for the bank I was already using. Presumably, the goal was to convince customers to become customers.

I was baffled. Instead of fully engaging with my customer service representative – who could have done a lot more than a screen to earn my loyalty (and who probably could’ve used a raise) – I was repelled by how the bank chose to spend its (my) resources on an ad campaign.

Screens are so ubiquitous that it’s extraordinary to enter an establishment that’s not lined with them. But their lack is a major reason we repeatedly dine at Like My Thai, and why we spent a recent happy hour at Lavery Brewing Company.

Still, that didn’t deter one young woman at Lavery.

Her shoulders hunched, and her face wore a garish blue-white cast. Companions surrounded her in the ebullience of youthfulness, hovering over board games, drafts in hand.

But she was still. The opposite of life, really. A slightly cross-eyed, hypnotized, machinelike being, whose one-pointed focus would be the envy of a novice meditator, if she weren’t directing it at a screen.

There’s nothing unusual about the woman I’ve described, of course. The real difference was that her friends weren’t staring at their phones. They engaged with each other in real time, and the contrast made her look absurd.

Other Lavery patrons laughed, looked into each other’s eyes, leaned closer to hear each other’s voices, and expressed themselves with both hands. They appeared downright people-ish. No wonder this woman stood out.

But in most places, she’s the norm.

Not long ago, I missed bartending. I snagged a job at a restaurant with three enormous TV screens dominating the wall behind the otherwise intimate bar. A restaurant, interestingly, that sought to distinguish itself through its elegant presentation of exotic dishes.

Our attention is our currency. If enough of us spend ours in establishments whose environments discourage screen pacifiers, we’ll feel a lot wealthier.

But I watched diner after diner eat what essentially became exquisitely-presented TV dinners, their attention too desultory to fully experience the pageant on their plates.

Sometimes I’d let myself imagine what went into those dinners: farmworkers harvesting veggies they couldn’t afford, animals raised in (let’s face it) cruel conditions, fossil fuels wasted in transporting ingredients, cooks sweating in the humid kitchen, servers stressing themselves between smoke breaks, and restaurateurs with a dream to deliver sensory artistry to their patrons.

And most of it squandered through distracted dining.

So I bailed.

Our attention is our currency. If enough of us spend ours in establishments whose environments discourage screen pacifiers, we’ll feel a lot wealthier. 

Katie Chriest can be contacted at katie@ErieReader.com.

Erie Reader: Vol. 7, No. 11
Now Available — Pick It Up Today


Your guide to the 2017 festival scene

Analysis, commentary on Erie’s latest elections

Frank advice from a former mayor to a future one


Erie team ends its championship drought


Scenic speed bumps and ski mask surprise