A young man at work calls me “old school,” a presumably nice way to define an old codger unhappy with some of today’s trends. He says I’m “anti-progress” and unable to embrace the future.
He’s correct in that I am skeptical. One example would be the push toward the “driverless car” which all of us are powerless to stop. All we can do is raise our eyebrows and scoff.
I’m not against innovation and I acknowledge all the studies showing that technology guiding vehicles is statistically safer than a behind the wheel human distracted by text messaging, a Taco Bell burrito, and the urge to speed through the traffic light before it turns red.
But in the end, I don’t care about your statistics. All I know is that a 10-cent place part from China can cause my dishwasher to flood, and that all the technology in the world hasn’t stopped my satellite TV from occasionally going kaput. For the young colleague at work who says driverless cars are destiny, I have one question: Would he board a plane knowing that there would be no pilot in the cockpit? In my case, Delta would have to supply me with more than extra peanuts and free alcohol to nudge me on the plane.
Another innovation that bothers me is the so-called “communal table” featured at many of the newer trendy restaurants. The idea is that you and your friend/partner/spouse would enjoy bonding and sharing a conversation with eight other total strangers. Supposedly, after introducing yourself, hearing them talk about their trials with Aunt Hazel or their oldest son, you’ll pass the butter, exchange the bread basket and, by the end of the meal, be planning a future getaway to San Francisco or Disneyland with your new found friends.
Sorry, but I don’t visit a restaurant to find a friend. Neither do I enjoy sitting so close that a stranger can share my Chicken Parmesan. I’m not spending $50 on a dinner to hear a stranger brag about his daughter getting accepted at UCLA. I’m not interested in a globe-trotting couple explain the hardship of finding a good olive oil outside of Europe.
Listen, if I wanted to sit hip-to-hip with people I don’t care about, I’d go visit a junior high cafeteria.
I agree with a London columnist who wrote last year that restaurants should ban communal tables as uncivilized. He wrote, “I wouldn’t fill that place with communal tables any more than I would order the kitchen to boil up a vat of cabbage and then waft the stench through the dining room with an industrial fan.”
Maybe this communal table thing is spreading. Three days ago I was sitting alone eating a hamburger at a crowded fast-food restaurant when a young woman planted herself in the seat across from me. She never asked if I’d mind or if the seat was being held for someone joining me. In fact, she didn’t even make eye contact. She just assumed that the inclusion was the new norm – and if I didn’t like it, I could take my ketchup packet and fries and finish them in the front seat of my Toyota.
The bottom line is that “new” isn’t always progress. The Susan B. Anthony one-dollar coin, the “New Coke,” the “Smell-o-Vision” in movie theaters, Gerber baby food “Singles” for adults, the Apple “Lisa” computer – all were as successful as BYU’s 2017 football season.
Sometimes “old school” has a nice ring to it….and I’ll answer that on my flip phone.