Something has changed. You’ve noticed it, too. Ten years ago, I was irritated that people were talking on their phones everywhere I went. Now they’re on their phones but not talking into them. It irritates me more.
My classes used to be full with happy chattering when I entered. I would tap the podium to get things started, usually having to ask two or three times to begin. Now it’s dead quiet. Everyone’s texting. In the morning, people get on my building’s elevator, texting. Sometimes they don’t press the buttons or get off at the right floor.
Teenagers in malls, walking in groups, looking down, texting. People on exercise bikes at the gym, looking down, testing. Couples in restaurants, looking down, texting. Academics at conferences, looking down, texting. People in cars, looking down, texting. People. In cars. Looking down. Texting. One nearly killed me the other day as I was cycling to work. At the last second she looked up, slammed on her breaks and, of course, honked at me.
The good news is that I can die happy now anyway, because yesterday – I swear I am not making this up – I saw a guy walk into a tree while texting. It actually happened. I was eating my lunch on a bench and saw it coming. I should warn him, I thought. And then I thought, no. I wanna watch this. Then it happened. Wham. Tree. I clapped my hands with glee. He was okay. Just sort of looked around, embarrassed, then saw me sitting on the bench, staring right at him. We made eye contact. Understood one another perfectly. “Dude, you’re not going to tell anyone about this, right?” “Dude, I am going to tell everyone about this.”
So I had exactly one day to produce an entirely different blog than the one I had intended to post. And I know what you’re thinking. “This is so 2009.” Yes, yes, yes, Broad. We know that “time saving” technologies don’t really save us time; we know it’s rude not to pay attention to the people you’re with (especially when they’re trying to teach you something); we know that the Internet is rewiring our brains and giving us shorter attention spans; we know that…uh…just a sec...
Anyway, enjoy all that. Because I don’t own a cell phone. Well, I do. An old flip-phone that’s a hand-me down from my wife, who is newly equipped with an iPhone 5S. But I’m not sure where it is, and I don’t think I can send texts on it anyway, and I don’t really take it anywhere because it weighs as much as a hand grenade.
People gasp at this. No phone! “What will you do if there’s an emergency?” they ask. I dunno. Die, I guess. Or hope somebody else calls 911. Or texts 911. Or Tweets 911. Or at the very least records my death for posterity on Instagram or Youtube.
I can see it now. I have horrendous crash on my bike. A bystander whips out her iPhone.
“Siri, dial 911!”
“Searching the Internet for Nine West. There are five Nine West locations near you.”
And that will be my epitaph. “Made the supreme sacrifice so that others could have shoes at a discount.”