The Dodo pub chain recently announced a voluntary mobile phone amnesty experiment for its pubs. The idea is that groups go to the bar, switch off their mobiles, place them in zipped sealed envelopes then take them back to their tables. The longer they resist unzipping the envelope and using their phones, the more discount their party receive off their final bar tab – 5% per hour, up to 3 hours.
The experiment is geared towards urging people into making conversation with others – something we once took for granted but is now seemingly non-existent.
I think there are few things sadder (and ruder) than seeing people in pubs sat opposite each other with their heads buried into their phones as they check their social media. Their insistence of feeling permanently attached to the virtual outside world whilst simultaneously detaching from the real outside world is bizarre.
In contrast, there’s something quite comforting in seeing an elderly couple just sitting quietly facing each other with no need for phones or words because they’re just happy and content to be with each other.
Years ago, unsociable pub people would hold up a large newspaper in front of them. Today, the phone has become that newspaper.
But the newspaper is still a valuable asset in pubs.
If drinking alone, I’ll often carry an “emergency newspaper” into a pub. Not to shield me from entering conversations with others but as a prop to preserve my table if I’m going to the bar or toilet.
There’s no way I’d leave a phone there whilst I’ve gone to fetch condiments to find, when I return, my phone has been stolen by someone who’s talking loudly into it whilst sat at my table – which they’ve also stolen – and eating my chips.
There is a popular misconception that all phones are smartphones. They’re not. They have incremental levels of intelligence. I know this because my fiancée is often heard shouting ‘Where is my “bloody stupid” phone?’ A smart phone wouldn’t get itself lost.
Seriously, who knew…?