Last night I went to meet my friend Hiro at a bar and I got there a little bit before him, so I found myself just sitting alone, waiting. This was weird for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m almost never in bars at night anymore. I like to be in bed by ten and since my kids fall asleep between 8 and 830 and I usually have to wait until they’re asleep to eat dinner, and since I can’t very well just go out once they fall asleep because that shit’s irresponsible/illegal, I cook and eat at home and that’s pretty much all the time I have. There’s just no time for going to bars at night. Sometimes if I’m out for the day, away from my kids and working on stuff I’ll go get a beer in the afternoon just to kind of change up the atmosphere, but for the most part being in a bar in the day is totally different than being in a bar at night.
In the day, people are either old and wasted or they’re just having one or two beers. Restraint is exercised, strangers may casually bullshit, but usually in the day the bar is fairly empty and the regulars and the bartenders sit there and watch television and loudly banter about whatever the fuck is going on. At night, people are trying to get drunk, people are trying to get laid and people are generally suited up, both mentally and physically to get out there and be seen. I haven’t done this in a while (notable exceptions are when my friends play shows and I can get out to see them), and last night I realized that I now completely suck at being at a bar.
Firstly, I no longer want to or am able to just bullshit with strangers. That used to be my thing. I used to go to bars and just strike up conversations with crazy old men/pretty girls/scott ian from anthrax/whoever. Now I don’t. The reasons are several. Firstly, I’m an old, married guy with two kids. That means that I automatically kind of don’t know what’s going on with the scene and as a result I kind of feel like I’ve got very little in the way of cultural currency with which to barter in a conversation with a random person. I’m also not gonna strike up conversations with random pretty girls because, well, come on. I ALSO just am not really ever in the nighttime-barroom situation, so I’m out of practice at being social, though interestingly, I don’t care about that anymore. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I can remember being young and seeing guys like me just sitting there alone and silent until their friends came by and thinking “wow, that guy has a lot of confidence. I’m out here just trying to talk to everyone because I’m desperately insecure and want the validation of A) getting a good story out of the night and B) making strangers interested in me/like me but that dude over there doesn’t give a FUCK. That’s pretty cool.
But now I’m old and I realize that it’s just a different kind of insecurity. No one I’d be interested in talking to is gonna be interested in what I have to say because frankly, I don’t have shit to say anymore. I found myself gripped with minor-league stagefright when a woman across the bar started talking to me (she was just asking the bartender’s name, by the way). I don’t want to talk to strangers in that setting anymore because I don’t have shit to talk about and it makes me feel awkward and I hate feeling awkward so I just kind of retreat…and this is where I realized that bar culture is being irreparably damaged by technology.
What do we do when we have nothing to do? We retreat to our phones. As I looked around this bar at night, a zone that used to be where I felt more at home and “among the people” than anywhere else on earth, I was struck by the fact that EVERY SINGLE PERSON that was there alone was dicking around on their smartphones, myself included. That’s pretty fucking lame. I think the guy that goes to the bar to read is lame. The theory behind that is that if you really want to read, a dim bar with drunk people all around is hardly a good place to do it. Reading at the bar has much more to do with having a really bad idea of how to market yourself. If you’re reading at a bar, you may think you’re putting out there that you’re a sophisticated guy who also knows how to have a good time, and right now, you’re engrossed in your tome, but what you’re ACTUALLY putting out there is “I’m a dildo with no friends and this is, believe it or not, the best idea I could come up with.” (It bears mentioning that reading at a bar in the daytime is absolutely fine. That’s a totally different move. At night, however, it’s radioactive dildonium.)
The phone though, is completely different. It’s not a ‘move’ or an affectation anymore. I think it used to be. I think that when people first got cellphones it was cool to be on it all the time and seem important, but now they’re so ubiquitous that there’s no way that anyone at the bar or perhaps on the earth, is gonna think I’m important just because I’ve got my face buried in an iPhone at eleven thirty Thursday night. It’s almost involuntary. It’s a compulsion. It just looks like an awkward crutch that I can’t give up. It’s like smoking if smoking made you look less cool instead of more cool. At least smoking is dangerous in an exciting way. Dicking around on your phone is dangerous because it hurts your eyes and you’ll probably crash your car or walk into the street while you’re doing it (and it probably gives you cancer too, but it doesn’t have the same reckless cache of cigarettes).
Anyway, yeah. Bars are being ruined by smart phones. And so is conversation, eye contact and general humanness in public spaces. On the upside, it’s way easier to take a picture of your cock and send it to people than it used to be.
Have a good weekend, yall.