In a moment of subtle voyeurism as the band riffed another joyously happy song I scanned the room. People eating, sipping beer from sturdy glasses, engaging in conversation, a couple of older ladies dancing, some tapping their feet to the live music, some staring at sports on one of the obnoxiously looming screens above. Then my eyes rested on a table of three young men in their early twenties.
They looked no more alive than if they were a body in a coffin or a robot waiting to serve its master. One was staring at his phone as we tend to do these days even while a real live body or bodies are sitting in front of us. God they looked bored as hell.
Perhaps their night didn’t go as expected. Perhaps the band was playing the kind of music they loathed. They were obviously dressed to go out. Built better than any guy I ever knew in my twenties. Hair perfectly styled so as not to look too pretty nor too unkempt. Were they there to meet girls or grab a bite with buds? Whatever the case it seemed they were the most miserable table in the room. Even more so than the woman in the corner who hadn’t looked at her date all night, sipping dully at her white wine.
These young men, these guys of a generation that came after mine, and even my own teenage son, live in a world I really do not envy. The more I watched them the more I felt a bit of sorrow for them and their peers. I don’t mean to sound old when I say this (as I have before described myself as a 12-year-old girl trapped in a 44-year-old woman’s body). I just mean they have access to and so much at their fingertips that instead of looking at the world in amazement a look of dullness has washed over their faces. Not much seems to WOW them. Not everyone is like this, I realize, but it’s kind of just a general ma-laze I see wafting through.
I try to imagine what it must be like to grow up in this culture, where you are constantly in contact with everyone and your personal life can be broadcast like a giant movie marquee on the front page of everyone’s daily newspaper. I mean the same thing is going on with us in our 40s. But we had our time of having to wait in excited agony for our favorite song to play on the radio. To stand by the phone booth until our friend called us back after we paged them. To marvel at things in nature which can’t be accessed immediately by Google images. The list goes on. By waiting and not knowing there was a sense of mystery, of wonder. As much as it might have been frustrating at times I can’t imagine my youth without all this archaic simplicity.
Do others feel it too? Or have I become like every other older generation who thinks things were better in “the good old days.” I worry about the amount of time my son spends looking at various screens. On Sunday nights I pry him away from his nest on the couch and take him across the street to our community pool. We always end up diving and flipping and laughing and snorting like kids ought to do.
The young men soon got up and left just as I thought they would. On to better things I imagined. And after their table cleared and cleaned another group of people settled in. Me and my coworker table-danced to the music as one-by-one our large party left for the night. “Die-hards” I said to her, describing our having closed it down. We are teachers. And we don’t get out that much.
I checked my phone for messages once I got to my car. I’m glad I didn’t take it out at the table, looking on dully.