I was at one of my favorite local restaurants this past weekend, picking up Chinese chicken salads and to-die-for cupcakes. While I was waiting for the cashier to pack everything up, I noticed two really cute little kids. This man, this, this…well-dressed man in a very expensive suit was perched like a penguin at a table with his two darling children, it appeared doing his college best to try and talk to his kids, who looked like they were on Prozac.
I thought, ohhhh, how nice , a dad, with his kids,…(okay, yeah, I am a sucker, that’s all it takes for me to well up, the mere sight of a dad on his own with the kids.) This guy was talking non-stop about something, blabbing on and on in the general direction of his kids, yet upon closer inspection I noticed the little girl sitting quietly twirling the end of a clump of her shiny golden locks, staring off in the distance, while her brother listlessly poked at the metal holes in the chair in a half-hearted attempt to play a game he had just made up.
Clearly this was no company for Socratic dialogue, but still, there was no connect at all.
I thought, hmmm. Is he scolding them? Then I saw him laugh. No, that’s not it. Are they just to young to understand what he’s talking to them about, I mean maybe he’s talking to them about things they aren’t interested in, like politics or math …
The cashier interrupted my rich little fantasy and suggested I might want to pay now; the line behind me had gotten pretty long. I had almost forgotten what I was doing, I was so engrossed. I handed her my debit card and then looked back over, hoping to find a new clue and once and for all get to the bottom of this curiosity.
Nope, same guy, same scene except…wait…a minute. And then I had a flash of genius (Okay…but it was definitely some kind of flash). Oh, no… is that guy?...Could he be? No… I squinted my eyes, looked closely across the room, and zeroed in on his ear reflected in the mirror, and sure enough…I swear, had it not been for my mother’s imperative I would have shouted “OH MY GOD, HE’S ON THE PHONE!!” I gasped instead. That whole time, instead of trying to do what I naively gave him credit for, almost shed a tear over, he was on the f-ing phone.
Now everything made sense. Now I saw why these kids looked like they were in a dead zone. Oh, the judgments flew, and they were flying everywhere. It was like a judgment storm inside of me!!! And you’re right; I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. I was way beyond giving this guy the benefit of the doubt. Fine, I relented. I didn’t know why this guy was on the phone, or why his kids looked drugged. And is it any of my business? Some would say no, some would say it takes a village.
I see it so much now, parents—hell, people of all ages—who are with each other but not where they are, obviously wanting to connect, but not present to being connected. I watch young kids’ digits manipulate with their opposables, texting like fiends, like junkies, while in the car, while driving the car, parking, talking, walking, riding bikes, skateboards, eating in restaurants. It’s like we should all have the friggin’ phones surgically attached to our bodies! OR—how about, hang up the bloody phone once and a while?
For now I would settle for a modicum of respect and responsibility. Like:
1)If you are driving in the presence of other human beings, hang up the phone—you are putting them in danger. At least, use the speaker. You wanna kill yourself, that’s your decision. The rest of us want to live.
2)If you have children and feel burdened by their presence and wish they were not with you, get help, give them up for adoption, or at least try and talk to people you care about less than them during business hours or when they’re sleeping. Kids need, attention, respect, to feel safe and to have enlightened witness to see them!
3)Basically pay attention to where you are and the effect you may be having on other people. If it seems rude, it probably is. Just walk outside or keep your voice down. Manners are how we show each other respect!
Look, I am no angel, and I do have a phone. But I try like the dickens to be sensitive. Like when I cross the street and someone stops to let me go, I wave, Hey, thanks!; or when someone has one item and I have 90, I say “Go ahead”; and when I am on the phone and with someone else I try and remember this person’s life and time is precious, maybe I should act like it, so I hang up! Lately, every Friday I try and leave my phone at home for several hours, practicing what it was like when people had to wait. I highly recommend it ;)
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