A few months ago I was desperate for Thai food.
Actually, that happens to me a lot. But this time was different. It was nearing 9:30 on a rainy Friday night, and I was racing home in my white 1997 Buick LeSabre with adriatic blue interior (superfluous detail, I know, but the Sabrecat hasn’t made it into a post yet). I was very hungry. Gwyn was gone for the evening, and the food resources at home were limited. So the craving for Thai food that always exists somewhere in my self conscious notched up to the next level.
And yet a dilemma lay before me. Here I was, driving home in the rain with hunger levels reaching new upper-middle-class-white-male-in-the-United-States highs. I knew the Thai spot near our house closed in thirty minutes, at 10:00, and that they refused take-out orders past 9:50. Quickly I did the math: I wouldn’t make it home in time to look up the phone number.
For most people in my situation, this would be no problem. They would call Siri from her sleeping abyss and ask, maybe politely maybe hangrily, for the phone number to the Thai place of their dreams. At the very least, if Siri privileges did not grace their phone, they would find the phone number on the world wide web.
I do not have a smartphone. Not even close. My LG something or other has a sliding keyboard and text message functioning, but I can only wish for internet access or a touch screen. And to my dismay on this particular night, I do not have Erb Thai’s number saved in my contacts (remember those, contacts?).
Never before had I wanted a smartphone so badly.
But I would not let my Thai dream die. If I hurried, I could get to the restaurant right around 9:50, order take-out in person, and then enjoy my vegetable pad Thai or massaman curry in all its spiced glory at home.
I pulled up in front of Erb Thai at 9:48, jumped out of my car, and ran inside to the front counter. The server working the counter looked at me and then at the clock and then back at me. I raised my eyebrows to make my most hopeless looking face and asked, “Are you still taking take-out orders?” She nodded. Victory.
After I placed my order (veggie pad Thai so as not to anger the kitchen staff), I sat down in a chair near the door to wait. I had no smartphone or magazine or book to read, so I just sat there, hands folded in my lap, abnormally self-conscious about how I positioned my legs. Ten minutes to wait without anything to do. My mind froze at the perceived awkwardness of it, and again, I wanted a smartphone.
The server, now finishing up her closing work, stopped all of a sudden and said to me, “Oh my gosh, you don’t have a phone or anything to look at?” I held up my LG. She literally put her hand to her mouth and asked, “Do you want me to get you anything to look at? Well, I can’t give you my phone so I guess there’s nothing to get you, but I don’t want you to be bored!” I said no, that’s fine, thanks.
She went back to her work. This perfect stranger, unprompted, noticed that I was waiting without mindlessly perusing a phone. And I noticed it, and felt it, too. That didn’t happen even five or six years ago. If that doesn’t signal some new normalized behavior, I don’t know what does.
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.