Sunday, September 20, 2015


In a “writers’ café" a few blocks from my house I sip an Earl Grey and look around.
It’s a charming place. Plants abound, tea and coffee flow.
The place is packed. Inside and outside on the patio. 

I'm lucky to have got the last spot. With my laptop, I'm here to find inspiration, overhear some good dialogue or talk to fellow writers.
I’m also meeting a friend.

You’d expect lively chatter in such a place, but no.
An electronic silence reigns. 

I open my laptop and look at the manuscript icon. 
This place has a bizarre vibe, like a zombie motel.
And good luck on the eavesdropping.

I close the Mac.

People are present but nobody's here.

Mostly alone, some together, they're bent over their computers and phones, typing, swiping and staring at screens, not at each other. 
They may have wi-fi but they're not connected.
Some also wear head phones.
Sensory deprivation.

For them and for me.

I’m the only person looking around.
The thought bubble above my head has a question mark:
“Will writers
soon have nothing to write about because
a) they're looking at their devices instead of observing life?
b) There’s nothing to observe because all people do is look at their devices?"

It’s an Escher-like concept: people looking at a device writing about people looking at devices.

I think of all the writing done in cafés in Paris because apartments were so cold and wonder why these folks are writing in this café. Surely their coming together indicates a desire for human contact, yet they're actively avoiding it.

As my friend approaches my table, I wonder if Nabokov, Dickens, Brontë and Joyce were writing in this café today, would their work look like this:

"Lo-li-ta: the tip of the finger taking a trip of six letters down the keyboard to tap, at six, on the a. Lo. Li. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo on Skype, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in texts. She was Dolly on Facebook. She was Dolores on Google. But on my iPhone she was always Lolita."
"It was the best of social media, it was the worst of social media, it was the age of WhatsApp, it was the age of Instagram, it was the epoch of blogging, it was the epoch of Tweeting, it was the season of Uploading, it was the season of Downloading, it was the spring of Tinder, it was the winter of Match, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.. –“
"I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found an iPhone. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, Kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one."
"I was a subscriber to Netflix yes when I saw his text yes, or should I choose Hulu yes and how he texted me and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my email to text again yes and then he texted me would I yes to say yes a free trial and first I favorited him yes and drew him a smiley-face all yes and his fingers were texting like mad and yes I said yes I will try HBO Yes."
Illustration by MC Escher