Interpersonal communication in the digital world is a disappearing art form and it’s being replaced by an emoji. When I first started going to bars long ago, there would inevitably be a wager thrown down by a couple of patrons that didn’t agree on a topic. Usually the discussion was trivial, but each patron would feel firm in their conviction as to whatever was being discussed. I loved these half-drunk debates that ended up with someone losing a five dollar bill after a bet was settled. Discussing trivia with a stranger or two in a bar or simply listening to the discussion of a couple of patrons having a debate was always good, lighthearted fun. The topics ripe for discussion were usually consistent, such as: who won the 1954 World Series, what is the terminal velocity of a human being, what year did the Second World War begin, how fast is the speed of light, and my all-time favorite; which city is further west -Los Angeles or Reno?
Sometimes everyone in the bar would get in on the discussion and take a side until ultimately, an old guy sitting in the corner with his head down toward the beer on his table top, that everyone thought was likely passed out, would lift his head and cry out loud enough for the entire bar to hear, “I was born and raised in Reno, Nevada and I lived there until I was thirty years old, then I moved to Los Angeles, California and I lived there for thirty years. I know this answer absolutely!”
By this time the old guy would have the attention of everyone in the bar and he would be immediately sworn in as the subject matter expert on the topic. Once the two wagering parties agreed to accept his word as definitive, all would eagerly await his answer. With his head back down to focus on the table top, the grizzled old guy would again come to life and roar, “Reno! Now who’s gonna buy me a cocktail?” The bet would be settled and the old man would get a free drink. That was twenty five years ago. Today if two strangers in a bar happened to simultaneously look up from their smart phones and make eye contact with each other and actually engage in a conversation; any issue, topic or fact that came up for discussion would not be debated at all. All information would be confirmed with a simple, “let me Google it and text you the answer.” The discussion would end. There would be no need for an old guy to deliver a kernel of wisdom thus no need to buy him a cocktail. I recently tested this theory at several different bars on several different occasions (yes, doing all that drinking for research was argues (insert emoji here) but somebody had to do it) and each exercise resulted in the same outcome – quick Google search and a text.
I’m bummed about this because I am now the old guy sitting at the back of the bar, sipping on a beer waiting for a bar bet to come up so that I can spit out a pearl of wisdom and resolve it. I can’t compete with a smart phone. I wish I was born in the mid 1800’s, then I’d only have to compete with a telegraph machine and if that were the case, I think I’d get a free drink from time to time -which is always nice.