by Sean McConeghy

Do-It-Yourself Botox

Until recently, dinner at the Duncan house in Gary, Indiana, was a relaxing affair.  James, an insurance executive, would typically go over claims on his Blackberry, occasionally calling a colleague to discuss a particular case.  His wife, Monica, would check up on plans for fundraisers she was planning for the charity she runs.  Meanwhile, their teenage children Matt and Sandy would text their friends about weekend plans, school gossip or the people they were dating.

With recent increases in cell phone rates, however, such quality time is no longer possible.  That valued half an hour has now turned into a 10-minute awkward silence interrupted by the occasional platitude or routine question.  “How was your day?” starts the nightly performance, which is without exception followed by “Fine. Yours?” “Okay.”  James later compliments his wife on the dinner, but it’s clear that nobody at the table is especially comfortable.

“These are hard times,” said Monica.  “The higher rates leave us no choice but to cut down on our cell phone use, and it’s tearing our family apart.  I don’t know which is worse, that painful period of queasiness all of us prepare for all day or the arguments that start just to break up the monotony.”

Sadly, though, the Duncans are not alone.  Newlyweds Mark and Karen Newberry of Houston are already staring at each other across the table.

“Five months ago I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Karen,” Mark, 35, reflected.  “She was so beautiful. Her lunchtime calls always brought a smile to my face, and the way she would send those smiley faces at the end of her texts. It was just incredible to know that the love of my life was just a phone call away.”

Times have changed, though.  “The only time I get to talk with her now is when we’re together, and I just don’t know if I can handle that.”

Diners aren’t the only one who have noticed the change. Pietro Conti, the owner of Pietro’s, a popular Italian restaurant in Seattle, said that his place just isn’t the same. “This place used to be filled with smiling people chatting away for hours. Now that the only people they talk to are the ones sitting opposite them, they just stare across the tables in silences so deep, you’d think this was a Trappist monastery.”

When this crisis will finally end and allow meals to return to normal is anybody’s guess. If it doesn’t end soon, though, you might want to consider investing in companies that sell microwaveable dinners. Any meal that last longer than a commercial break could soon be a thing of the past.

Sean McConeghy has spent most of the last decade traveling around the world, mostly teaching to support that occupation. He’s currently in Honduras starting his own business. He is working toward his Rhett Butler moment when he can say to his former life, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

All Downsized Living blog posts are fictitious and satirical. Any resemblance to real persons is coincidental and unintentional.