Earphones at dinner

We were at dinner at a restaurant last week when a father, mother and their daughter (likely a teenager) sat down in the table next to ours. We were engrossed in conversation as we were catching up with a friend we hadn’t seen in ages.

A few minutes later, our friend said – “Check out the quality conversation at the next table.”  Sure enough, all three of them were busy on the phone.

Minutes passed. Dinner had been served but that was just a side show – they were still on the phone.

A few minutes later, we saw the teenager abandon all pretense and put on her headphones. The Dad seemed busy on WeChat. The mom alone was silently eating her dinner.

It isn’t unusual to see phones being used at the dinner table. Earphones, however, are a completely different matter.

That is, at least, what I thought.

But, are they any different? Pulling out our phone at dinner is us implicitly saying – “This is more important than the food and the people on the table.” So, what makes putting on earphones any worse than texting?

This, to me, speaks to the danger of marginal cost thinking. Just as saying “just this once” is a recipe for disaster, making an excuse for a “small thing” isn’t any better.

Small things, done repeatedly, become the big things.


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