The Inadvertent Rudeness of Technology
Bob Kerr writes in yesterday’s Providence Journal
The first time I saw a laptop on a bar top was at Local 121 in Providence a few months ago. It was a moment of social breakdown. In a place meant for the soothing embrace of a cocktail, a woman apparently saw no problem, no code violations, in plopping down her slab of technology and hooking up with the universe.
I know some bars where putting a laptop down next to the beer coasters would probably bring the threat of a laptop flying, followed closely by its owner. But Local 121 is a subdued and tasteful place, retaining much of the original elegance from the days when it was the bar of the Dreyfus Hotel. The bartender did not lean over and threaten to bounce the laptop off the wall. The clueless offender was allowed to click away.
The rudely placed laptop came not long after a woman at Borders bookstore in Garden City told me all about her troublesome daughter. I’m pretty sure she didn’t intend to tell me anything, but she shared every anguished word with me and others who were looking for a good book. She poured her worries into her cell phone with a voice that spilled out beyond the latest nonfiction and paperback mysteries. She was in a bookstore, cutting into literary considerations with a private conversation turned public. Like the laptop user at the bar, she appeared to have not a clue that she was pushing her life in the way of others.
So we’ve got two separate matters here. A computer at the bar and the public cell phone conversationalist who believes s/he is perpetually surrounded by deaf people.
I am 150% with Bob on the latter. The loud cell phone user is in a slightly different rudeness category as the point-of-purchase cell phonist, though both involve the inflicting of personal information, willy nilly, on the public. I was in a Whole Foods check-out line a couple of weeks ago behind a woman who carried out the entire process – loading of the conveyor, scanning of items, bagging and paying – talking intensely into a cell phone. When the clerk turned to me and my items, I observed that she needed a “No Cell Phone” sign at her register. She replied in cheerful bemusement and a killer Southern accent, “Ah just learned all of that girl’s business!” Indeed. Whether or not she was interested.
So, absolutely. The mis-placed and/or loud cell phonist. Inconsiderate and boorish.
What I’m not getting is the laptop computer at the bar. Why is this rude? What unspoken bar etiquette has been breached? How is this “a moment of social breakdown” that makes Bob think wistfully of direct, corrective action?
… the bartender faced with a customer who sits down at the bar and opens a laptop might have a few practiced suggestions picked up in technology etiquette classes. The bartender might say, for example: “If you don’t want 16 ounces of Irish stout poured on your keyboard, you might want to take you and your laptop somewhere else.”