No offense, but when we say “Sure, I’d love to see photos on your phone of your dog/grandkids/vacation,” what we really mean  is “Please God, no.” We don’t even know why. We know we ought to want to see a tiny picture of your dog, but somehow we never get the joy out of it that we’re supposed to, and now we want to talk with someone else.

It’s a lot easier to bore people comatose these days. We have so many bite-sized, snappy ways to do it, and they take almost no time at all. But we sense them adding up. Ten seconds into someone else’s favorite youtube snippet, we already feel our lives ebbing away.

Taking mushroom pictures

You used to have to work at it harder. But my father was not a lazy man. When we had company for dinner, he hauled out the pull-up picture screen in the living room, with its odd, sharp, sparkly scent of futility and despair, and he set up the slide projector and fiddled with it until things were centered. And then he showed his slides of mushrooms and spider webs, pausing significantly at each one to intone a Latin name and allow for proper appreciation. He liked mushrooms and spider webs, personally, and while he no doubt suspected it wasn’t of general interest, he simply had no other entertainment marbles in his bag. Our guests would murmur politely and cast surreptitious glances at the slide projector to gauge progress, and then everyone would put their coats on and leave.

At least we didn’t have much company. Actually, all we had was the Dunns. Myrtle and Larry Dunn were an older couple from church, and the only acquaintances that could conceivably be wedged into Daddy’s narrow comfort zone. Mr. Dunn was grumpy like my dad and Mrs. Dunn was nice like my mom. She always complimented my mom on her famous homemade bread, twinkled at me across the table while she and mom agreed how fast “they” grow up, and then it was off to the slide show and out the door.

Mom was the one who was into people, or at least she was nice. She was rumored to have had a social life before she married my father. I hope she liked how I turned out because her social life with grownups dwindled sharply. She’d invite Myrtle and Larry over about once a year, and they always retaliated, I mean reciprocated, about a week later. “I wish she wouldn’t do that!” Mom would say when she hung up the phone, but under her breath, because she was nice.

A social life is a fine thing, but there’s no need to overdo it.