Published On: Fri, Sep 27th, 2013

Wright to the Point

By Jonathan Wright

The proliferation of mounted television sets in restaurants is some cause for concern.

Television sets in restaurants?

You’ve seen them.

Just a few years ago it was virtually unheard of to find these electronic entertainment-information devices in eating establishments other than, perhaps, bars. But fortunately I have absolutely no experience with bars.

Now it seems they’re the trendy thing to have. Even Shoney’s and Hardee’s jumped on the bandwagon a few years ago and installed them. I guess you have to compete with the other guys if you want to keep your customers.

Fortunately most of the television sets in restaurants are not turned up to very high volumes. At least the managers have the sensitivity to recognize that it can be very difficult for people to talk with those contraptions blaring loudly above everything else.

Despite it all, though, I see it as a detrimental trend. Why? For one primary reason, a reason that surely every restaurant patron could recognize by taking just a moment to think about the situation.

Television sets are distracting.

You know they are. Try as you may, no matter how stimulating your conversation is while you’re waiting for your meal or while eating, you can’t help looking up and over your table mates to the one-eyed monster fighting silently for your attention.

Many restaurant television sets are set to display closed captioning so customers can keep up with what’s going on in the programs without having to strain to hear every word.

I inevitably and hopelessly find myself mesmerized by those closed-captioned words and genuinely possess no ability to ignore them for more than a few seconds, any more than I can ignore the very picture on the screen.

It’s much the same as what happens when you’ve visiting in someone’s home who rudely leaves the television set on while you’re trying to carry on a conversation with him or her. Even if the volume is completely off, the images flashing on an off the screen are almost impossible to ignore, and the eye is hopelessly and incessantly drawn to them.

Restaurants should be places you go with family members and friends to enjoy conversation over a meal. Anything that distracts from the conversation is an annoyance that should be removed if at all possible.

This entire observation came into focus recently when my friend Bonnie brought it to my attention after a meeting. My response was a quick and immediate “You know, that’s a good point.” One thought led to another as I pondered the matter, and I knew I needed to share this with others.

So there you have it. I seriously doubt that I’ll visit any of the offending restaurants in the near future and find their television sets removed. If anything, more electronic devices will be added in the future as we become more and more hopelessly and shamelessly dependent on them.

Such is the good life of the 21st century.