The mall on a Sunday would not be my first (or even 71st, for that matter) choice of favourite things to do, but we had to, due to an unplanned late night involving too much red wine and making new friends on Friday night, meaning that our plans to do our Santa Shoebox shopping had to be postponed from Saturday morning. It had to be done.
So it was done, and we rewarded ourselves with lunch after, at a busy, cheap-and-cheerful restaurant in the mall. Again, not my first choice on a Sunday but a good option with a grumbly tummy that was turning me into a grumbly person, and a high wind blowing the City Beneath the Mountain about outside, making outdoor eating (normally far preferable on a sunny Sunday) a non-option.
After ordering my food, I sat and observed the tables around us, despairing at the table in my direct eye-line. A family consisting of mother, father, teen daughter, approximately 8-year old daughter and grandpa. Teen daughter, who was facing me, had her face lit up by the cell phone she was looking at, for the whole meal. 8-year old daughter, on the other hand, had her back to me, which gave me the perfect view of the iPad on which she was playing some Car Driving Simulation game. At one point, before their food arrived at least, the father pulled out a laptop and fiddled about on it for a while.
Can I remind you at this point that we’re talking about Sunday lunch time? Kind of sacred family time I’d have thought but maybe I’m just old-fashioned. It made me sad, though, to see the social disconnect. While I realise there’s a certain amount of social connect involved in this scenario – guaranteed teen girl was on Facebook or Mxit-ing her friends, but what happened to simple, meal-time conversation, face-to-face? And they were not alone in this scenario. It was repeated at numerous tables around us.
At least, at one point, the 8-year old deemed it a good idea to show her grandpa how well she’d driven her simulated car on her little screen. He looked sufficiently grandpa proud, and she beamed, looking at him properly for the first time since they had sat down. It wasn’t long, though, until she was back steering her simulated red Ferrari around the simulated rocks on the simulated road.
Her grandpa turned back to his prawns.