06/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Just Think

It's uncanny how little we do for our brains considering all they do for us.

Imagine the following scene: One day restaurants put a simple bin near the door. Not for lost and found. Not for umbrellas. But for our cell phones, Blackberries, Treos (do they still make those?), anything tethering us to outside. A holding pen for our digital drama. Say this rule of drop the digital was mandatory!

Now consider what would happen when our dining companions got up to use the bathroom, leaving us -- gulp -- alone. With our solo thoughts.

Nightmare fuel?

Might trigger an uptick in national sales of anti-anxiety meds -- there's a positive. Think about sitting still, unplugged, no conversation -- biggest horror of horrors. It's what I think set off the Great Depression and is what our grandfathers battled in the Great War.

But we used to be like that. Talk, wait, think, then talk some more. Way back in the late 1990s. During those days we went out to eat with someone and sat, listened, ate, and, once left alone thought about what was said. Alone. Thinking oh so analog-ly. There might have been some chitchat with the waiter about ice or check-desires, but not nearly enough to fill those forgotten minutes of friendlessness and communication-freeness. It's difficult to remember what we thought about, surely. One presumes it had something to do with Y2K. Mentally taking inventory of all those canned goods we'd hoarded for our bunker. Or maybe -- maybe -- we thought about the very last thing our companion said before he hopped up to freshen up or pee.


Perhaps our bud's momentary absence served more as an intermission in a longer, more Patient Discussion. We didn't need to know how everyone else in our life was doing AT THAT VERY MOMENT because we'd talk to them later. We compartmentalized and had no fear of doing so. Somehow -- somehow -- business was conducted. Emergencies were resolved. Self-importance was not our main descriptor. And because of this, perhaps we paid closer attention to what our friends and family were saying (and who knows, what we were saying -- how kind of responsible) at that moment in time.

Alas, the future stayed in the future, back there in our cubicles and pneumatic tubes. Maybe we worried about what would happen soon while at the table, but we couldn't DO anything about it ... that made all the difference.

Things were kind of slow and nice. I am -- talk amongst yourselves -- getting misty.

... During the current nameless decade, cigarettes have been phased out of indoor public spaces, including restaurants, because they kill us. Maybe, too, if we restricted our table tech to wrist watches alone, we'd be healthier people!

With that, just imagine how awful that last scene of The Sopranos would have been if Tony been hunched over in a booth scanning spam.

(Cue dark screen.)

For more see or the blog at Read the book - 2011: Trendspotting - from McGraw-Hill and Mr. Laermer.