Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Conversation Starter

I appreciate that a certain fast food chain is rewarding phone-free meals with free ice cream. For families with children, this is a great idea. It encourages interaction, conversation, bonding—things that probably every family with kiddos could benefit from these days. But as an empty-nester, I’m thinking I’ll keep my phone and forgo the freebie.
If I went to a restaurant with even one adorable child—infant, toddler, adolescent, teenager—I’d find plenty to talk about before and during the meal: How was your day? What did you learn at school? How did it go on the calculus quiz? Things I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t with them all day. And even if those questions were answered with no more than an “I don’t remember” or "I don't won't to talk about it," I could still keep the conversation rolling by coming up with more questions. Or in the case of a teen, more interrogating. 
But these days, my immediate family consists of two adults—Bill and me. Since we’re both retired, we spend a lot of time together—a LOT of time. We pretty much know what the other person had for breakfast, what news was in the paper that morning, what came in the mail, which team won what game, what cute thing a grandson said. And since there are no longer children at home, we don’t have that mainstay of conversation. How much more can there be to talk about?
I once read that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, aka Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, would take turns counting in French whenever they were eating out just so onlookers would think they were engaged in lively mealtime conversation. If those two world-hopping jet-setters (before there were even jets) couldn’t come up with something interesting to say to each other, what chance do we lowly, dull commoners have? There’ve been times I was tempted to use their tactic, but one thing held me back: Neither Bill nor I speak French. And if we counted in English, people would be on to us.
The solution to our dearth
of dining dialogue
We’ve all seen the couples who sit silently in restaurants, either staring blankly at each other or gazing lovingly at their food. I once swore that would never be me. But, as with so many other of my foolish claims, I was on the fast track to eating my words. Then, quite unintentionally, Bill hit upon a solution to this dining out dilemma—his cell phone.
Mind you, I’m not talking about him hunched over his screen with scrolling finger poised, oblivious to my presence. I’m talking about his sharing those bits of breaking news he has immediate access to. I’ve come to view those as “conversation starters,” and we do a good job of turning those juicy tidbits into interesting exchanges.
I can hear the criticism from those of you who possess the “gift of gab.” If I were smart or could remember what I read in the morning paper or was the sort who could ramble nonstop about . . . say my new bed sheets, I suppose I wouldn’t have to resort to technology for inspiration. But since I’m none of those, the phone has become a useful tool for “feeding” our dining out dialogue. As a bonus, I’m learning new information and keeping up with current events. I’d say that was worth the price of an ice cream cone, wouldn't you?