Last night I took my two youngest girls to dinner and came out with a startling realization about our society and the direction it is moving.
It was mommy-daughters night and I was looking forward to a nice relaxing evening of dinner and then Dolphin Tale 2. After much debate over whether we would dine at Italian or Mexican, during which time I provided a full list of items we could choose at either food genre, we ended up at Chili’s Bar and .
The first thing I noticed upon walking through the double doors into the land of chili pepper logos and hot sizzling fajitas, was some sort of electronic device on top of all the tables.
I was suspicious from first glance. Why has this alien electronic device now made its way to the tabletops of a mainstream American restaurant? They are ugly and distracting, completely taking away from the already questionable ambience and dining experience.
“What are those things on the table?” I asked my hostess.
“Oh! Those are our new Ziosks! It is an electronic drink order machine,” she told me in a perky voice, obviously proud of this newer addition to the establishment.
I soon found out that this Ziosk is so much more than a way to order drinks. You can call for your server, add things to your order, pay your bill, and for a mere .99 (which is automatically added to your bill), kids can have unlimited game playing.
We sat down at our table and the girls automatically grabbed one of these Ziosks and started playing with it like it is an iPod.
I reminded my girls about our “no electronics at the table” rule, and broke the news that they will not be allowed to play with this Ziosk.
“But mom there are so many fun games on here!” they cried, their disappointment at girls night out already palpable. “I know,” I said. “Now hand it over please because this is how I am required to order my margarita.”
This Ziosk was making me so uncomfortable I felt like leaving. Did we now need an electronic device on every table to order food, pay our bill and tempt children with anti-social restaurant entertainment. What happened to good old-fashioned conversation with one other? Like, hey kids, did you have a good day at school today? Who did you play with? What jobs did you work on?
I was sad. I looked around at every table I could see, a total of six tables, and noticed that at each table someone was face deep in their iPhone. At some tables, the kids were playing the .99 games on the Ziosk. Absolutely nobody was talking to each other.
I think it is depressing to see children playing on devices at restaurants. They sit like zombies starting at a screen, oblivious to what is going on in society. Are they even required to look up from their screens to order their own food? Or say, “please” or “thank you”?
Now Chili’s is perpetuating this problem in hopes of attracting more families and more money into their big red chili pepper corporation, at the expense of healthy family dynamics.
When my server arrived at my table to check if I needed anything, one of my daughter’s had jumped tables to find an open Ziosk. The other daughter jumped on this opportunity and quickly snatched the one on our table. Within 30 seconds, both of my children had been able to easily accept the offer to play video games for .99, and were involved in an intense game of Plants vs. Zombies.
(Enter Dolphin Tale 2 Spoiler Alert)
Later that night while watching Dolphin Tale 2, I teared up six different times. I could’ve gone into a full-blown ugly cry when Panama dies, his lifeless dolphin body lying motionless on the bottom of the pool. The movie was touching, but really it shouldn’t have created that intense of an emotional response. I think the tears were because of the Ziosk and all that it symbolizes in our culture. The Ziosk is just one more thing that parents have to control. It is just one more notch in our culture’s slow and steady decline of healthy social connection.
Since first discovering the Ziosk’s at Chili’s, I have also seen them at Applebee’s and Johnny Rockets.
Down with the Ziosk!
Until the next time, the mothership is signing off.