Times certainly had changed, he thought, looking out across the floor.
The Bowling Club had undergone a rather posh revamp.
The bowlers had a uniform now, the green was meticulously cared for. The rules were to be followed and gatherings had lost that casual come-and-go feel.
Inside, the old kaleidoscope of vomit coloured carpet had been replaced with bamboo flooring. The space was open and light and the menu boasted both traditional and exotic cuisine.
Exotic in a traditional sense of course, the Club knew its demographic well.
Tables sat on average eight, there were a few fours, a couple of tens, but eight was the usual congregation.
Four couples, a clutch of widows, a gaggle of greying bachelors.
Conversation used to be a low hum that filled the area with a contended buzz, but now, looking over the diners he saw only bent grey heads as people watched videos, played on Facebook, or passed Instagram accounts around to show their friends.
What had once felt like a community had well and truly gone static.
He went across to take an order. A few glances up between typing on the phone, no ‘please’s, no ‘thank you’s, just a general air of distraction.
He brought across the cutlery; again, no conversation, no eye contact. Eight bowed heads, all paying homage to technology and lives that weren’t their own.
Last night there was a texting war between tables, insults were traded along with smug looks fired off with the send button, turning pink and livid when reading the response. Both groups had left after twenty minutes, and not a single word was spoken. He preferred it when they were trading words.
He missed words. They used to bore him, set his teeth on edge, condescend or placate. He missed tone. The smile in a voice, the laughter between friends. Now, all the accompaniment he got in his job was the ding of the bell for order up and the continual beeping of text being typed simultaneously on 68 phones. Every. Single. One… With keyboard sounds enabled.
He looked under the counter at the old bread baskets, yellow straw, soon to be retro, and finally came to a decision.
The next day, when people came in for their meals, those little yellow baskets sat on each table with a small laminated sign.
Please place phones here.
First to call, answer, text, FB, Instagram YouTube or Google will be responsible for the payment of the bill.
It was the perfect conversation starter.