Section: Features Edition: 1 - All-round Country
THERE she sat opposite her male companion. She, beautifully groomed in her designer-label silk number and matching patent high heels; he, in a drab crumpled polo shirt and denim.
They were dining at one of Melbourne's upmarket eateries and, as it was a balmy night, they were able to sit outside on the balcony where they could have a river view as they enjoyed their meals and each other's company.
However, it was not to be!
She had arrived iPhone in hand and, for the next hour and a half, as she consumed her oysters and main course, sipped her white wine and preened her hair with one hand, her iPhone never left the other, talking and texting, talking and texting, talking and texting.
In fact, her thumb had become a kind of tool; almost a mechanical appendage to her hand rather than flesh and blood or like those specifically evolved elongated fingers of the aye-aye lemur, which uses them to extract grubs deep from the bark of trees.
Her companion sat opposite like an obedient dog waiting for a crumb of conversation and occasionally, probably from boredom and/or frustration, also talked on his phone.
I was transfixed: why had these people joined each other for dinner? Certainly not to enjoy each other's company and good conversation in the ambience of a great restaurant.
Although they were the extreme case, I noted she was not alone. As I looked around, several people at nearby tables were also texting or talking on their phones while their dining companions either sat patiently waiting for them to finish or were doing the same. How did we ever cope before the advent of mobile phones?
These insidious pieces of technology have become the adult equivalent of a child's dummy or security blanket. I wouldn't be surprised to hear there are people who cannot sleep without their phone lovingly tucked up in bed beside them.
Perhaps diners at restaurants should have to do what students entering classrooms at some...