Of all the jukeboxes in all the world -- and I have known a few -- the best ever hummed from a corner of a cozy restaurant called Jack's in Waveland, Miss.

There was another outstanding jukebox at the Broken Spoke in Counce, Tenn., a restaurant tucked in the shadow of the paper mill. It held a smorgasbord of show tunes, hillbilly ballads and Big Band.

And, I do remember dancing to slow, sensuous tunes from a good jukebox in a Colorado motel lounge. Dim lights, Naugahyde booths and high altitude make any music sound better.

But, in my experience, I have to say the Waveland box was tops. This Jack's was no relation to the fast-food emporiums by the same name, understand, but a casually elegant cafe set up in a rambling old house at the edge of town.

Located in bosky woods not a mile from the ocean, the house specialties were seafood and atmosphere. The old converted house, with uneven floors and low ceilings, had the feel of a boat. It rocked and roiled.

The short time I lived in neighboring Pass Christian, I made the short, pleasant trip to Waveland as often as possible, as much for the drive and jukebox as for the excellent food. Following the shoreline, you could watch the sun set over the bay and be at Jack's by twilight and dinnertime.

The Jack's jukebox played Hank and Glenn Miller, plus everything in between. Nobody danced, but everybody wanted to. When "String of Pearls" or "Jumpin' at the Woodside" cranked up, most diners, still seated, began dancing with the top half of their bodies, tapping fingers on tabletops.

The restaurant and its signature jukebox are gone now; most of Waveland is. Katrina rolled over that pleasant little town like a greedy developer over an empty cow pasture.

But I think of it fondly whenever I go into an otherwise nice restaurant and see a television dangling from the ceiling. That seems to happen more often than not.

Jukeboxes are jewelry, televisions are tattoos. One adds, the other subtracts.

I went to a cute, new Italian restaurant in a neighboring town one recent night. There was convincing trompe l'oeil art on the walls, a pretty pumpkin-colored floor and even a place for alfresco dining. The food was good.

And yet, in the potentially romantic basement of the swell new Italian restaurant, a television was playing. It was if a rowdy sports bar and a fine-dining establishment had had a bastard child.

I always put my back to the TV in a restaurant -- when I have no other dining options -- but that inevitably results in a dinner companion fixated on the screen. And it's not really his fault. Televisions are impossible to ignore.

While you are waiting for the breadsticks, the CNN trailer keeps you up to date on car bombings, tsunamis and political shenanigans. While you are trying to eat, cars race round and round in prescribed circles, someone sells laundry detergent or prescription pills or toilet paper, reality-show characters dine on worms.

Some restaurants show the courtesy of keeping the volume down, but even the flickering screen is an unnecessary distraction. A TV with no sound, in fact, may be more annoying than one going at full tilt.

I guess restaurants feel they must fall in line with the growing trend of eating in front of the television at home. We all do it. Multitasking Americans would feel they were wasting time to linger over and really enjoy a meal the way Europeans do.

It's just one more way that so-called progress is making us less civilized. One year we're swaying with "Crazy." The next year we are.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson writes for King Features Syndicate.

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