I am both old enough, and (originally) rural enough to dimly remember using a party-line telephone. One elderly lady on our road, lacking other excitement in her life, would pick up her receiver no matter who the call was for, prompting a lot of 'Hang UP, Angeline!' The advent of private lines, a welcome advance for the rest of us, was a bitter disappointment to her. I cannot imagine what she'd make of cell phones.
This week, we went to see a movie that was in only limited release. It wasn't playing at any of the multiplexes, but Dedham Community Theatre had it. On the way, we grabbed a quick salad at the new Sweetgreen in Legacy Place. Clean, bright, and with lots of fresh, local, and organic options, the store was full of young people wearing sweatshirts from top colleges, deeply engaged with their phones. Signage touted their compostable bowls and utensils, and urged customers to save time by ordering via the Sweetgreen app. The food was delicious. We were both tired and pressed for time; somehow, stupidly, I grabbed my coat but left my pocketbook on the chair, not noticing my mistake until I reached for my wallet at the theatre. I tried to call the restaurant, only to find that I...couldn't. They don't have a phone. Or rather, they do, but it's not at that location. A call to the listed number offered me the web address to download their app, an email contact, or the option to enter a text conversation with their 'customer experience team'.
Me: I accidentally left my pocketbook at your Dedham store.
CET: I'm sorry. We are not currently at that location.
Me: Can you call them?
CET: I'm sorry. Our team members are busy assisting customers and would not be available to answer the phone.
We drove back. Luckily, my pocketbook was still there. And we made it back to the theatre in time to see the movie, only missing the previews and opening credits. Of the two movies playing that evening, most viewers had opted for the other one: a super hero action flick. Our choice, Lean on Pete, had few takers. Ostensibly about a boy and a horse, the movie is really an exploration of a boy struggling to hold onto some increasingly dubious connections: a failed father and a failing racehorse. But they are all he has, and he holds on with everything he's got. It's pretty much the opposite of uplifting, but I'd bet Lean on Pete will stand the test of time, remaining relevant for years to come. I'd gladly see it again.
It's curious how different our two destinations were-the restaurant with an unreachable staff and patrons focused on their phones versus the movie about a lonely kid trying desperately to find some human warmth. I enjoy my tech gadgets as much as most, and I'm not volunteering to return to that party line, but...not everything can be solved with an app. Constantly connected and instantly available, we can still be lonely and disconnected.
We ended our evening at home, with a nice glass of Cab Franc. If you'd like to try the same, come on in. We'll point it out. We'll even talk to you.