Just arrived at Newark Liberty Airport en route to Zürich. Time for lunch between flights.
Every seat at every table and every seat at the bar has an iPad on it. The menu is there in glorious technicolor, access to flight information, games and many sources of data.
A wait person comes by to help me make my selection and screens whizz by with options being selected on my behalf without asking. My credit card is processed in a flash and a receipt mailed to me.
It then goes into some automated reel of things for me to spend my money on.
I detach it and place it face down on the table but all around me screens flicker enticing my attention and distracting me from my task at hand.
The interaction between humans is precious: it defines who we are, it is how we learn, it makes each day full of magic. Even though ordering lunch is hardly pivotal in one’s day it is a moment to greet someone new, to exchange ideas and preferences and to discover how the waitperson will satiate my appetite. It is an honorable, centuries old, profession.
As I look around I see a group of women travelers engaged in raucous conversation their eyes glancing down every now and then. A table of colleagues talking to each other but transfixed on the iPad in front of each of them. Two men in suits, sitting just a few feet away from each other, both talking quietly on their phones but both jabbing and swiping nonetheless at the tablet. A family: the adults fussing about tickets and passports, the kids with the iPads in their hands, having already discovered they come out of their cradles, oblivious to suggestions about lunch. A restaurant full of people but not full of faces enjoying lunch: instead a sea of the tops of people’s heads.
We’ve talked about this before: just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.