Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stupid Cell Phones


Every day when I leave my office, there are other coworkers departing at the same time.  Almost without fail, every single one of them is on their cell phone before they make it across the sidewalk between the building and the parking lot. 

There’s a woman who walks to her job every day and I pass her almost daily on my own way to work.  She’s on her cell phone every morning.

Who are these people talking to?  What is so important that the call has to happen right then?  In the case of those leaving work, they just walked away from a desk that had a phone, which they didn’t use.  So I don’t figure it’s an “emergency”.  I presume that they’re heading home after the workday, where they’ll probably see whoever it is their talking to, anyway.  For the woman walking to work…didn’t she just leave home?  Is she calling work already, which she’s walking to?  Does she talk to the same friend at the same time every day?  Must these calls take place?

And what did they do before cell phones?  It wasn’t important enough then for them to find a payphone or use the phone at their desk.  Just because it’s convenient, does it make it necessary?

Every time I go to a concert now, I have to watch the performance through a sea of blue squares.  Cell phones.  It seems like everyone in the audience except me has to record the entire show on their smart phone.

I’m not against using your phone to snap a couple of photographs of the show to have as mementos, but do you need to record the whole thing?  The audio on those recordings is horrible.  Because of the stage lighting (which I can’t even enjoy because of a million cell phone lights), the video is also very poor quality on cell phone recordings.  What happens to these videos?  The ones I’ve seen on YouTube are unwatchable.  So, are you sitting on your couch every night after the concert, reliving your experience, watching the video with horrible audio/video?

I maintain that seeing a band live in concert is a magical and very special thing.  If you care enough to plunk down the high cost of tickets, why in the world would you want to sully your concert experience by watching the entire show through a viewfinder ON A PHONE???

I could go on and on with the offensiveness of poor cell phone etiquette (talking loudly on a cell phone in a store, etc.), but you see where I’m going with this.

I came to the realization yesterday that my cell phone was what was making me crazy.  (It’s what was making me crazy THAT day anyway).  I felt rushed, anxious, spinning out of control.  Work was calling my cell on my lunch break.  My wife was sending me texts.  I’d just picked my four-year-old up from preschool, so she was trying to tell me about her day and excitedly asking me a million questions a minute.

I snapped at my daughter, ignored the work call, and yelled at my wife as her texts came in.  And I realized…the phone was the source of my stress.

It wasn’t wrong for work to call me.  They needed some information.  Yes, it could have waited until I returned in THIRTY MINUTES, but there was nothing specifically wrong with them calling.

There was nothing wrong with my wife sending me texts.  She knew I was on a break from work and thought it would be a good time to send me some information I needed. 

And there was absolutely nothing wrong with my daughter wanting to talk to me.  But she received the worst of my frustration.

Because all of these things were happening at once.

If this was 15 years ago and I hadn’t had a cell phone in my hand, my daughter would have had my complete and undivided attention during our lunch break together.

If work hadn’t been able to call me, I would have had a full thirty-minute break, as is required by law, and as I’m sure we all can agree is good for the mental wellbeing of all of us.  I mean, really…does your work need to have TOTAL access to you?  Do you need to be reached by phone AND email at ALL hours of the day?  Is it really T-H-A-T important?

If my wife hadn’t been texting me, you know what would have happened?  We would have had to have a conversation about whatever it was she was saying when I got home.  Maybe she would have actually been looking forward to…maybe even EXCITED…to see me at the end of the day.  Because she had something to tell me.  We would have had to genuinely talk to each other when we got home.

As it was, we’d corresponded throughout the day, so it was like we hadn’t been apart for 8 hours.

I went out to dinner with my family a few weeks ago.  And while I will admit to checking my Facebook on my phone, in minutes of boredom while we waited for a table, I was amazed to see three girls out to dinner together, all on their cell phones the ENTIRE time they waited.  They looked to be older high school students or early in their college careers.  And each was playing games on their cell phones.  Different games.  They weren’t even playing together.  They were out on a “fun girls’ night” and not talking to each other. 

What did we do before cell phones?

Oh, right….we talked.  We looked each other in the eye.  We had boundaries between the various areas of our lives.

Don’t get me wrong…as much as I’m frustrated by cell phones, I get their benefit.  I’m the father of a daughter.  And you’d better know that as soon as she’s old enough to spend any real time alone, after school or whatever, that she WILL have a cell phone.  She will NEVER be behind the wheel of a car without one.  She won’t go on a date without one.

But, alas, because she has one, the boundaries will be blurred.  She’ll go on dates and check Facebook while they’re waiting for a table.  She’ll probably text and drive, and hopefully she’ll get away with it.  She’ll get a job that will be able to contact her instantly any time they see fit.  She’ll be with her family and receive calls and texts while she should be spending quality time with her loved ones. 

Why does balance have to be so hard?  Why can’t we restrain ourselves?

Just because we CAN doesn’t mean we SHOULD.

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