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Holiday experiment: No cell phones at the dinner table

By Edward A. Forbes

The Bulletin

I went to visit an old and dear friend the other day. I made the short drive complete with a bottle of wine, pate’, assorted cheeses and crackers. You can’t visit for long without sustenance.

It looked to be a nice visit as my friend had just been out of state to see his daughter and a new 2022-model grandchild. I had a visit to Needville with my brother to counter that travel story.

The visit was further enhanced because I had, inadvertently, left my cell phone at home.

I see stories about people banning cellphones during family meals. Growing up, it was usually five boys at a table, shoveling down the day’s offering. I shudder to think of the conversations at that table. During my college days, holiday meals at my older sister’s home consisted of her family of seven and my older brother and myself. Conversation was varied, spirited and occasionally augmented by inter-family hostilities, but inevitably satisfying as a whole.

Now, it seems, people don’t even talk on their phone. Food served, eyes down, not in prayer, but reading text messages that arrive with the frequency of the tires hitting expansion joints on a sweltering summer day.

The meal and the experience are enhanced by faceless, voiceless conversations with no entities to engage the beings at the table.

Cell phones as babysitters are a common sight. The baby reaches a certain age, and they have trouble containing themselves in their eagerness to relate every minute of their day.

They reach the next stage (about 11 years old), where they don’t want you to know anything about their day, and the fingers have been trained to communicate by text.

Now granted, this age group will converse verbally when in groups, herds or gaggles with no adult presence. It seems that age not only goes before beauty, but age prohibits inclusion in these group conversations.

Can you envision Ward imparting his wisdom to the Beaver via text?

Lassie could have learned to text, though, and that would have sped up her many “go get help” missions. Lassie’s directions in a text would have been interesting.

I wonder what the landmarks would be like? Turn left at the tree that gray poodle peed on, for example.

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and I am thinking of having a time with family when cellphones, iPads, tablets and all electronic devices are to be banned for an hour or so while we visit with one another.

I can only hope that “device withdrawal” doesn’t precipitate tantrums (from adults or children) that detract from the experience.

Wish me luck, but call, don’t text.

(Email Edward at or send comments by mail to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)


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