Gazing Grazers by Annita Woz

feetupbikecrashThe glow inside the establishment was not quite rosy, but had a familiar flicker.   Make no mistake- a cozy candle lit restaurant it was not.

We pulled into the parking lot and hustled inside to avoid the icy night air.  We were traveling south after a few days of visiting with family and had stopped at a pizza place to have a bite to eat and to break up the monotony of the four hour drive.

My peripheral vision soon caught a motion on my right side as I spied a glimpse of a blue team playing a red team on a flat screen mounted at about shoulder height on the far wall.

In the back of the restaurant a large booth was set for our family and we marched in a straight line toward the hot glow of a plasma screen solidly hung on the wall.  The changing colors of a commercial bathed the napkins in that blue hue and the clean white plates basked beneath it, as though warming themselves in front of the screen on the formica of a modern hearth.   

Two of my children settled immediately into seats that directly faced the screen and methodically took off their coats without taking their eyes off the scene. They quickly identified the name of the show and knew it was not a show that we let them watch at home because even though it was rated y7,  it was all about dating, talking rudely on cell phones and it seemed to be more about tricking grown ups than learning about growing up.

Looking at me for a split second they checked to see if it was okay to watch the program since they knew it was not on the approved list at home.  Before getting the feedback, their pupils darted back to the screen so they wouldn’t miss any of the illegal watch time they were getting.

I thought about changing the channel, looked around the mostly empty place on this New Year’s day and saw no one else under the age of 25 in the area and decided no one would miss it if I turned it off.

But I didn’t.

The waiter interrupted our TV viewing to take our order.  Normally proud to be able to ask for what they wanted, the girls could hardly focus on the menu and the waiter and the show at the same time. They managed to gain control of their oral function long enough to choose a beverage after we repeated the menu choices three times.

I took a minute to get some salad and looked around the restaurant. A glow machine was directly above a table in each of the four corners of the room.  There were two others strategically placed on side walls but not right in a booth or directly above a table; tvless tables were left empty.   All sets were tuned to different channels, all tables were turned to maximize exposure.  The speakers threw the stories and sales pitches into the room where all met and tangled together.  An electric hummmm permeated the room and wove in and out of the preliminary welcomes and the chit chat of appropriate commentary reserved for new arrivals and the hostess.

My husband settled directly under our corner booth entertainment and glanced over the shoulders of his daughters at the opposite corner where the game was featured.  I ate my salad and wondered if I started talking about how my banana peppers were- right this moment- leaping off my plate and were right now – look, see – dancing on my head,  I wondered if I could have gotten anyone’s attention. It would have been a test of mom’s emergency broadcasting system.

It was only a test. 

The couple at the table near us had no television but both of them were helpless to turn completely away from ours. They didn’t need the volume turned up to hear the jokes written for a ten year old audience and didn’t seem to even care that there was not closed captioning to help them keep up. They continued to gaze at the box while grazing. 

Had a low moo escaped anyone’s lips I would not have been surprised.

I had been warning my kids of this phenomenon for years- too much TV turns your brains to mush, I would say. Then I would knock on the sides of their heads, as if testing to see if it was still solid,  and then look right and left inside their tiny ears to see if any brain matter was leaking out.  I thought about reaching out of our booth and knocking on the neighboring noggins.

But I didn’t.

I continued to eat my meal and attempted some conversation about the holiday fun, then about how the pizza tasted, then turned to asking questios about why this show was rated Y7 instead of at least Y10 and got very little feedback.

I put my fork down and waved my arms in front of the girls like I was working for a large airport and directing a 747 into the hangar and got nothing.  No one in the whole place even noticed my crazy waving antics. The waiter may have thought about rushing over to see if I needed the Heimlich. 

But he didn’t.

I put down my fork and stared at my dinner mates. I looked around the room to see if anyone else was missing out on this thing called dinner conversation.  I wondered if the room had been more populated earlier but thought that each diner may have been silently zapped up into the screen itself, the missing guest gone unnoticed by the staff or his own dinner date. The guests checked in, but they didn’t check out.

Everyone seemed pretty focused on other things happening above my head and content to be deeply engaged in the hearty debate of someone else’s scripted dinner conversation with their television mother.

I thought this was a supreme opportunity to be very immature and not act like the responsible parent that I usually am.  I felt I could get away with a very large unmotherly-like burp. The long kind that kind of drowns out conversation and shocks people, young and old alike.

But I didn’t. 

A. Woz.




3 Responses

  1. This was superb. You should offer it to some higher-traffic website out there. I have no doubt that there would be dozens who would run it. The “but I didn’t” refrain gives it a mirthful rhythm. And the TV-as-hearth imagery is, alas, all too accurate.

    But, come on, your kids couldn’t — no kids could — have been THAT entranced by the tube. We had a no-TV policy in our house when the kids were growing up, and yet, as starved for TV as my kids were, they never went catatonic on us like that in the presence of the tube. The conversation always overrode the distraction of TV, even if we had to raise our voices. So, something tells me you’re exaggerating a little.

  2. By the way, where are all the other comments? Don’t people leave comments on your blog?

    • Hey, Ron. Glad you enjoyed the humor and thanks for the plug.

      this was originally published about 2 years ago. My current job taps all my creative energy but i may get back to writing for myself, some day. As for all the comments? who has time to read blogs much less comment, eh?

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