The Ottumwa Courier

May 13, 2013

Headline: Hey, human being here!

Put the cell phone down, just for a second!

MATT BRINDLEY
Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — I’m walking into an establishment — let’s just say it was Applebee’s. Could be anywhere.

I’m with ... we’ll just call them Florette and Conan (just changing the names to protect the guilty). Florette places her cell phone on the table — kind of romantic — like an old-fashioned fire you used to sit around and gaze at.

Meanwhile, Conan keeps sighing and tossing his phone down in between texts, as people tend to do now with their cell phones. You know, they’ll just kind of flip them onto the table while making a “pssst” sound in frustration.

Don’t you love it when they flip that cell phone out on the table and say, “Let’s talk.” That cell phone is just staring at you. What your friend is really saying is, “I’ll talk to you until something better comes along on this phone.”

 

Quality time?

This wouldn’t be all that annoying if I wasn’t halfway through a really good story! It could be a life-threatening story — it could be a humorous, melt-your-heart story you would remember for the rest of your life. It could be that I just won the Powerball jackpot, that I’m going to die next week. The point is, it’s hard to tell a story when someone is so distracted by a cell phone!

You know, when you’re talking to me, I don’t in mid-conversation suddenly hold up a Sports Illustrated, right in front of my face, and start reading it — while half-cognizant, saying, “Uh-huh, uh-huh” without a clue of what you just said.

Don’t you see, when you’re talking to someone with a cell phone, you had better be “on” and have some pretty entertaining stories. Because if they don’t like your show, they’re going to find a better show on that phone!

Usually they’ll have some goofy ringtone like Smokey and the Bandit’s East Bound and Down” that interrupts your conversations too.

“So Florette, did I tell you, I discovered the secret to life! Yeah, it was in a James Michener book. It was right after the Earth cooled. Then Michener wrote something that just blew my mind ...”

“Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’/ We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done/ We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there ...”

Florette answers, “Hello.”

Oh well ... I guess I’ll just wait until she gets off the phone and finish up my story later. Maybe it wasn’t interesting enough!

After five minutes, Florette’s off the phone.

“So anyway, Florette, the other day I discovered the fountain of youth. Yep, it’s two parts vinegar and one part ...”

“Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin.”

“Hello, hey how are you?”

“Dang!” I say to myself. Alright, I’m just going to have to come up with some better material. She’ll only be on the phone for another five minutes or so. OK, she’s finally off.

“So Florette and Conan, I overheard some people outside. I guess there’s a warrant out for your arrest and you probably shouldn’t go home ...”

“Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin.”

Dang it! I can’t get through a conversation!

Sometimes you’ll see everyone lined up at the local bar and grill, all playing on their cell phones. No one’s talking to anyone actually there. They’re all off in their own little worlds.

This is what I call a social faux pas which is now accepted for some reason in today’s society.

 

Ahh, the etiquette



Cell phones have warped society’s common courtesy. I’m next to you — I must be somewhat important if I’m next to you. I must have some interest in you — right? I must care enough about you to direct my voice in your ear’s direction. So my conversation must not mean that much ... I guess. It’s kind of annoying — don’t you think?

This is probably particularly distressing to people with kids and grandkids who want a little cell phone etiquette. Put the cell phone aside for one meal! Is it that much of a sacrifice?

I understand social technology and that it’s the wave of the future — cell phones — texts — tweets. Along with this comes a lot of bad drivers.

Then there’s the guy who walks into the gas station wearing his shades while talking on his cell phone the whole way — never acknowledging anyone in the store. He’s usually in front of you as he’s yappin’ on the phone. He’s got to buy six different lottery tickets as he’s buying his Ju Ju Fruits and his Marlboro Lights. He won’t even look at the cashier. Is this a really important phone call? Is he talking to Donald Trump, trying to close a mega deal? Is he calling for an ambulance? No, he’s just bored.

The inventors of all of this modern technology say it brings us closer together. I don’t know about that. I think it can split us farther apart within our community. You may have trouble explaining that to the kid blasting his hearing out on his iPod and freaking out when his smart phone is misplaced.

A new wing of psychiatry and psychology has been invented: social media addiction. Today’s youth have trouble coping without it.

It reminds me of a message by the Little River Band when they played at Bridge View Center a couple years ago. The lead singer was saying how nice it was back in the ’70s, before cell phones, that you could just disappear for a few days ... escape from the stresses of society. He made a good point. We’re all “on call” now, 24-7.

Technology is exploding all around us. Yet technology does not take the unintended consequences into consideration. Technology has gotten too far ahead of the horse. It’s a race for profits without much forethought.

It used to be nice to spend some quality time with someone not so distracted by a cell phone.

“Eastbound and Down, loaded up and truckin.”

Sorry folks, I’m going to have to take this.

No, on second thought, I really don’t.

m.brindley@ottumwacourier.com