November 16, 2011
Have you noticed that when you make plans with someone, you almost never really make plans with them? You essentially make plans to talk with them on the phone at a certain time from a certain location. This drives me crazy. If we’re meeting at 6:30 and we’re both on time and know where to meet, why do we have to call each other at 6:29 and say where are you? I’m walking up right now. Oh wait, is that you? Right where you said you were going to be, right at the exact time? Oh good, that is you approaching. I think you see me. Yeah, hi, oh you’re waiving about ten feet in front of me! So glad we had this talk! Why doesn’t anyone just show up anymore?! For some reason, this seems to be particularly pronounced in Los Angeles, where people are more iPhone-than-Blackberry obsessed and where the entertainment industry seems to attract a lot of flakes.
I went to dinner recently at Zengo, the excellent-if-overpriced Latin-Asian fusion restaurant atop Santa Monica Place. I had made the plans a weak ahead of time and additionally, I had emailed the day before to confirm. My intent was that our next communication be in person – unless of course a change in events required an update. On the designated day, I showed up at the restaurant early, checked in with the host and waited at the bar.
Now let me interrupt my story to warn you that as a longtime customer of AT&T, I have a particular aversion to using my beloved iPhone for any of its actual telephone features probably because it is so wonderful for everything except for anything that requires actual cell service. I don’t get any service in my apartment, I sometimes get a bundle of text messages from the previous 12 hours in one large cacophony of harp alerts in the middle of the night, and it’s not uncommon for one cell phone conversation to involve three or four instances of a dropped call and subsequent so sorry, my service is terrible here. So this my have something to do with my aversion to useless telephone communications. But it’s even more than that too. Doesn’t anyone want to make an entrance anymore? Remember the anticipation of meeting people before cellphones when you didn’t know if the person was there or not and you had to look through the crowd until you finally found the person you were looking for!
So anyway, while I was sitting at the bar, ten minutes early, I pulled out my phone to turn it off as any polite dining-out patron would do and I noticed that I had received a missed call at 5:30 from my companion and a text message a few minutes earlier that said “where r u.”
I was irritated that he wanted to reconfirm via phone when we had such clear plans and I don’t like wasting my time to repeat a conversation I’ve already had. While holding my phone, I got two more text messages “about 15 min away” and a few minutes after that, another one that again said “where r u.”
So much to my dismay but not wanting to be rude, I texted back “at the bar.” I decided that was sufficient communiqué and I would see my dining partner when he got there, turned off my ringer and put my phone away. Over the course of the next ten minutes, I could tell my phone was vibrating but refused to pull it out. We didn’t have anything to tell each other! He knew I was here. I knew he was on his way. We both knew where we were meeting. Why why oh why must we talk about this all?
Ten minutes later, I finally gave in. I pulled my phone out and read the following
I didn’t respond to a single one. I just watched new ones drivel in and thought about what I could have been doing instead of reading a bunch of useless text symbols. I could have been talking to the people around me, interacting with actual people. I could have read the New York Times on my phone or responded to emails. But no, I had to get dragged into a time sucking completely useless communication.
Finally, my dining partner showed. Ah there you are! Did you get my texts?
I looked surprised. Oh no. What texts? What was I going to say? Yes, I did but on principle I didn’t respond because I like to help build anticipation and create an element of surprise when I meet people, also do you know about capital letters?
Dinner was lovely, but I just can’t help wondering what happened to the element of surprise? The element of being tapped on the shoulder and whirling around to be face to face with your date! Looking through the crowd for the familiar face and feeling a moment of elation at your friend. Look, I appreciate the cellphone as much as the next girl but have some discipline. You’ll never be able to make an entrance if you’re giving someone the play by play of your whereabouts. For whatever reason, there’s just more satisfaction in finding something if you were looking for it first. So let him look and wonder for a moment where you are. Then, enjoy the look on his face when you get found!