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By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.
At first, it seems random. You sit down in a restaurant and start reading the menu. Then you let your eyes wander around the table checking out the placemat, the napkins, and the silverware. The tools for noshing are ready. So, you rub your hands together, place your order, and wait for your meal to arrive. Then you notice there is no teaspoon.
OK, you reason, they forgot it. Then it begins happening more and more often.
Placemat, napkin, knife, fork, even a water glass . . . but no teaspoon. Now it seems irrefutable. This was no oversight. Few places are any longer putting teaspoons on the table. Apparently, the word has gotten around. Don’t set them out. Wait for the customer to order coffee or tea and make them ask for it.
At first, you figure, it’s one less thing for someone to lay on the table, pick up later, run through the dishwasher, and put out again for the next customer. Holding back on the teaspoons saves time and ultimately a few cents a day on labor and dishwasher soap.
OK, you say and shrug your shoulders. No harm done if you don’t have anything that requires a spoon. Until that is, your dinner companion gets some amazing soup that you’d love to cadge a taste of. It’s impossible to wheedle a sample of bisque with your fork or your knife. Same with the mashed potatoes he or she can’t finish or the delectable mousse, crème brulee, or good old vanilla ice cream with claret sauce that they are willing to share.
After living with the new reality a while, even if you make bold and ask the wait staff why the teaspoons have gone away, they uniformly profess ignorance. Or, they might smile and ask if you want tea or coffee and then promise to bring you a spoon with it, but they will not say why you didn’t get one to begin with.
Guess we just have to chalk it up to the new reality that has us getting tea in mugs with no saucer to rest the tea bag on.
Some observers might say that it’s just part of the “less is more” perspective that increasingly manifests itself in the subtraction of once familiar objects and practices from our culture.
After all, we have gotten used to Band-Aids without that little red string that used to be there to help tear away the paper wrapper. Also, those convenient small vent windows that once allowed you to channel fresh air into your car without opening the regular window.
Likewise, landline telephones are apparently going the way of the Dodo Bird and with them telephone directories. Neckties as a daily wardrobe item, outside of the executive suite and the halls of government, look to be an endangered species as well. Although, mutations like the garish red, extra-long version worn by our president seem to be hanging on.
Every age has its buggy whip or eight-track recorder, but the current era has hundreds of such items. The world seems to be experiencing a multitude of seismic changes that, like sink holes, are swallowing up once familiar items all at once.
Gone are incandescent light bulbs, cameras that use film, and, for the most part, personal pagers. Gone too are tape decks, car ignition keys, and, in most places of business, ashtrays. Also, it has been ages since we needed whiteout, pay phones, bottle openers, or wooden matches.
Texts are more popular than actual voice calls, and phone apps seem to be on their way to challenging credit cards for primacy. Cash is becoming downright quaint.
“Disruption” is the trendy rubric under which this widespread removal and replacement of familiar objects and practices is taking place. Society and commerce are regularly if not methodically undergoing upheaval and change, dislocation and reinvention. It’s not only objects that are being made obsolete, either. The way we do things is changing radically too, for example, the way math is taught and the growing abandonment of cursive writing.
It’s enough to give you indigestion. So pamper yourself and stop for a nice cup of peppermint tea. . . if you can find a teaspoon to take it with.