We were at “Shogun,” a mixture of Japanese cuisine, acrobatic food preparation and pure family fun. We had come to celebrate an award that my young grandson, Bailey, had won.
We shared the preparation grill with another family, a mom, dad and two boys who appeared to be somewhere between the ages of 7 and 12.
What I observed as we spent 70 minutes in this in this amazing place caused me to wonder, “What in the world is happening to us?”
The two boys across the grill from us were “buried.” Yes, that’s the right word. They were buried in their internet devices. Dead to the world. They didn’t know we were there. They didn’t know that two boys about their age were sitting across from them. They were buried! They spoke not a word to their parents or to each other as we waited for the dramatic preparation of our food to begin.
Then with much fanfare and rhythmic clanking of utensils the chef arrived. The boys never looked up.
The show always starts with the chef pouring what I used to think was gasoline, but found out is a mixture of oil and alcohol, on the grill. With a swooping gesture our chef lit the mixture.
FIRE! A huge exploding fireball. The heat and light caused everyone jump back… except for two boys buried in their devices. My family will testify to this truth. They never even glanced up. A young child at the other end of the room cried out in fear. But evidently buried people show no emotion.
As the grill smoked and each of us patted our singed eyebrows, the chef took orders. The parents ordered for one of the boys the other mumbled his order without ever taking his eyes from the screen on his device.
In the next moment eggs were thrown into the air and deftly caught on the flat surface of a spatula. One of the eggs thrown into the air disappeared as the chef caught it in the hat he was wearing. Laughter and gasps of amazement… except from two, sadly, buried boys. Salt and pepper shakers were expertly juggled, eggs where cracked in mid air and mixed with the vegetables and rice that sizzled on the grill. The aromas made my mouth water.
The boys did not see one second of the display.
As the chef expertly gave each person at our grill a portion of food neither of the boys acknowledged the chef or what was being put on their plates.
By this time I was giving my own grandchildren a whispered lecture of the sadness of being buried and the importance of being present in social situations, aware of what was going on around them.
Surely, I thought, this will end when the boys begin to eat. I was wrong! Now the devices lay beside their plates as they manipulated them between bites of food. The youngest boy ate only a few bites before once again disappearing into his little cyber world.
The only interaction I saw between these boys and their parents in the entire 70 minutes was when the mom accidentally interfered with whatever game the older boy was playing on his phone. In that moment the boy rudely elbowed his mother and muttered an angry reprimand.
As we walked from the restaurant the parents guided the boys, who were still buried in their devices, to the car.
On the way home Diane and I talked about the experience. I was pondering several questions?
- Why did the parents let this happen?
- What will become of boys who can’t see real people, potential adventure and approaching cars in the parking lot.
- What is happening to us?
I know this issue is not limited to preteen boys. I have seen groups of young adults in a restaurant ignore each other for an entire evening as they choose to surf a digital world at the expense of missing a real world.
That night we were still talking as Diane fixed our staple Sunday night meal… leftovers. We pulled up a couple of TV trays, switched on the television and began to eat in silence.
Can you spell hypocrite? In that moment, I asked the question one more time and now I will ask it of you.
What is happening to us?