I wonder about myself at times. Ella already thinks I’m weird, and shit like this really doesn’t help.
So, I’m walking to this restaurant by myself. And I’m thinking — I wonder if I can go in and just eat lunch. No phone, no kindle, no nothing. Just me and my lunch.
I decide to do it. I walk in and ask for a table for one. The waitress shows me to my table and I sit down.
I look at the menu. The waitress comes back and I order an omelette with a side of smashed avocado (that’s guacamole in case you’re wondering). Off the waitress goes.
This is actually going OK so far.
I take a look around. And then it kicks in. It’s super fucking hard to just sit there and do nothing.
I mean, what do you actually do? Everyone else, with no exception is doing something. People are on phones, laptops, reading, talking to someone etc.
I look around and start to take in the surroundings. It’s a cool place. I start looking more closely at the decor. They have these gigantic, probably expensive coffee machines. I’ve been thinking about getting into making better espressos recently, so it makes me wonder if I should invest in an espresso machine.
The waitress returns and brings me some water and an espresso. That’ll at least give me something to do.
I take a sip of the espresso. Goddamn it’s good. It’s got a distinct taste that I wish I could replicate at home. Another good reason to invest in a proper espresso machine.
I start to think, jeeez. I have another 10 – 15 mins of this. What on earth am I going to do? I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a mix of looking around, thinking and resisting the urge to turn on my phone. Overall, it was awkward and weird.
The waitress is back and she brings my omelette with a side of smashed avocado. This is good news, because, besides the fact I’m hungry, I’ll actually have something to do.
I eat slowly. The first thing that hits me is that I’m actually focusing on eating my meal. I know that sounds bizarre, but nine times out of ten, eating is a secondary focus for me. I’m usually speaking with someone or doing something on my phone. I often finish my meal and hardly remember it. I eat very quickly, so it’s easily done.
Not today. Eating is my only focus. I use my knife and fork to cut my food carefully. I watch as the steam rises from my food. I eat much, much slower. I find myself tasting the food and noticing the consistency. I notice the mushrooms taste great.
I catch myself thinking about my posture. I tend to sit a bit slumped by default, so I straighten up. It feels a bit awkward, but I know it’s better for me.
Some work stuff whirls around in my head. I want to make a note of it, but I figure if it’s important, it will come back to me.
I finish and sit back. Goddamnit, I actually feel like I ate lunch. But let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.
I had urges to read a magazine that was close by. I had to resist the voice telling me to finish a podcast I started earlier this morning. I thought about going to the toilet, even though I didn’t need it (hey, it would kill a few minutes). I felt guilty for not making the best use of my time — I could be multi-tasking and ticking things off my to do list!
As soon as I’ve taken my last mouthful, I start to look about for the waitress. The period before my lunch arrived was hard, and I don’t need to go through that again. I catch her eye and ask for the bill. It takes about 5 minutes, which I spend oddly looking around the room, and again feeling a bit weird.
I pay and I’m up, walking out.
I don’t even know why I’m writing about this. I don’t think it’s particularly useful, interesting or impressive to go for lunch, and just eat lunch. The point is, it shouldn’t be that hard. I don’t think it would have been that hard twenty years ago.
I’m convinced the rise of the internet, phones and social media is mostly responsible for it. They are all remarkable breakthroughs in their own right, but they crept up on us slowly. And now they dominate our life and we’re addicted to them.
We don’t realise how much they’ve changed our behaviour. They’ve changed our ability to focus. Pulled us away from being present and enjoying the simple, real things in life.
Mental health is a big topic at the moment. Partly because there’s a positive trend in people opening up and talking about it. But, I also think it’s because mental health problems are far more prevalent nowadays. And I think technology is to blame.
I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it either — it hasn’t fully played out yet. I’m lucky to be able to remember a time without the internet, phones and social media. I have something to compare the now against. But the teenagers, and even toddlers of today won’t have that. This is all they know. And we might have to see a few more generations come and go before we see the long term effects.
OK, rant over.
That’s the best thing about writing. I wasn’t planning to think so deeply about it — just reflect on an awkward lunch. But as I started writing, it grew on me just how ridiculous it is. How is it possible that it’s so hard to just sit down for 45 mins and eat my lunch?
It strengthens my resolve to strive for the right balance with technology. And it gives me a lot to think about for how I parent my daughter, Fearne.
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