My daughter went to a Taylor Swift concert recently, and she was texting all night long instead of listening to Taylor whine about her old boyfriends. Something’s wrong with that picture. A multi-Grammy Award winner deserves more respect.
Shortly thereafter, I was at a performance by Patti Lupone. She grabbed the cell phone from a woman who was texting during a song, and she didn’t give it back until the end of the evening after sufficiently tormenting the rude audience member.
My other daughter and her husband visited us, and when we sat down to talk, one was shopping on Amazon and the other was on Instagram, while my wife was playing Scrabble on her iPad. No one noticed—or seemed to care—when I left the room. I came back 15 minutes later, and they were in the same positions. I wanted to check their pulses.
We’re not the only ones suffering from this obsessive disorder. The other day, I walked into the men’s room and some guy was in the stall on his phone, arguing with his girlfriend about their sex lives. I, however, have learned to leave the phone at my desk when I go to the bathroom because it fell in the toilet once. I also know better than to argue with my wife about sex in person or on the phone.
Sometime back in the last century, I was a student at St Joseph Boys High School, and a certified member of the teen rebellion movement, along with 76 million other Baby Boomers. We were, in parlance of the day, “non-conformists.” This meant I had certain credentials common to all non-conformists of that era. I listened to Bob Dylan, I had long hair—back then I had hair. I played guitar and sang anti-war songs. And I wore jeans.
Yes, I was a non-conformist who didn’t adhere to the middle-class values of society because I was sort of a modern day Henry David Thoreau without the cabin and pond.
Now, many years later, I’ve finally achieved my goal even though I no longer listen to Dylan or play the guitar. I realized I’m truly a non-conformist when I got on the elevator on the 57th floor of the Chrysler Building with a woman who was staring at her cell phone. We descended and stopped at the 53rd floor and two more people got on, both clutching cell phones and thumbing the keys. We stopped at the 46th floor and another woman got on who was text messaging.
And so it went. Out of six people, I was the only one without a cell phone in his hand; I chose instead to take the noble path and stare at the ceiling, as if I had been hypnotized.
Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I have an iPhone, an iPad and several other “i” gizmos, but I want to abandon them to preserve my brain, not to mention my soul.
I want to look up at the sky. I want to look at other people even though they’re not looking at me because they’re texting, playing games or listening to music. I want to return to the human condition as it was meant to be.
As I wander through Grand Central, I realize the extent of this social problem. I find myself weaving in and out of young people who are grasping their cell phones like oxygen tanks. They’re texting while they walk, obstructing pedestrian traffic and keeping people from getting to work.
The other day I saw someone watching a video on her iPhone while she was rushing to get the train, and I had to conclude that the mortality rate for people who behave like that is very high.
Try a recovery program. Leave your phone at home—don’t worry if there’s an emergency because everyone else will have one that you can borrow. You won’t be able, however, to find a phone booth.
I admit it’s not easy. How will my wife text me to tell me to bring home Chinese because she doesn’t feel like making dinner? How will my kids text me to ask me to please, pretty please, put some money in their checking accounts so they don’t go down with the ship? How can my boss email me to tell me there’s a conference call over the weekend? Did you ever notice most of the messages you get on that cell phone are from people who are asking for something?
You may be thinking, “How did I EVER live without my cell phone?” There were fewer distractions, fewer intrusions, fewer crises because people solved them without trying to drag you into them, fewer scandals because people didn’t send out a tweet every time some dumb idea or insult popped into their heads.
One of my friends doesn’t own a smart phone, and I’ve often told him, “You have to get one. Everyone has one. Everyone needs one. What if your car breaks down or aliens invade? What will you do? There are no more phone booths.”
“It’s just another thing to worry about,” he says.
While I want to be as independent as he is, everyone in my little universe, including my wife, my daughters, my boss, my previous bosses, my clients, Brooks Brothers, and Pope Francis wants to reach me any time, any day. And when you drop off the grid, they get very nervous.
Where is he? What’s he doing? Has he passed into the Great Hereafter? Did he hit Lotto? Did he escape the rat race?
People of America, join me in this crusade. Cast off your technological yokes, put your cell phones under the bed or in the toilet. Go outside and smell the polluted air, look up at the sky, not the cellular towers. Be truly human again while you still have time!
By Joe Pisani
Joe Pisani, a journalist for 30 years, approaches life with wisdom and wit. He writes frequently for ACT TWO. His most recent pieces for ACT TWO include Age Better with Positive Thinking, The Silver Tsunami, Grandpa? Pappy? What’s in a Name? , When It Comes to Love, It’s a Dog’s World and La Dolce Vita Americana.