Withering Glance: Bartleby the Tweeter

  • Updated: December 21, 2013 - 4:14 PM
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Mid-adult woman sitting at table in cafe, talking on mobile phone, reading magazine. Istock.com

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: Seriously, is there any difference between us and Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge or Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener?

RN: You mean, the two of us, personally? If so, dibs on Bartleby.

CP: Just as those 19th-century characters lean over their ledger books, we are everywhere hunched over our mobile devices, equally bitter and detached from humanity.

RN: Well, I don’t know about bitter.

CP: Detached, though. When was the last time you approached or spoke with a human being who was interacting with his or her phone? Not at the gym, not at the airport, not nowhere. They are emitting a giant “stay away” vibe, right?

RN: The universality of the smartphone is ironically tossing a big wet rag on the art of conversation. Last night at Burch Steak and Pizza Bar, I watched as most of a table of six spent more time bathed in iPhone glow rather than in face-to-face contact.

CP: At least when I am dining out with you, I have the good manners to hold my phone unobtrusively, beneath the table. That’ll be made more difficult when I upgrade to the much bigger tablet.

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