The light changed to green. Rolly started to move the car forward through the intersection just as two teenaged girls, without even looking up from texting on their phones, just stepped off the curb and into the traffic, as if they had invisible force fields around them in a Star Trek episode— Life On The Planet Gottaphonia Not a glance to the left, not a glance to the right, not a word to one another as they crossed— not once did they lift their eyes up to even see where they were! Apparently they were in some sort of drone mode.
A few moments later we passed a bus stop. Three glam-faced minors stood in total silence, except perhaps for the little mice-feet rustlings that their Technicolor manicured nails were making on their tiny phone keypads. It may have been communication, but with the three of them as awkwardly positioned as Bond girls during opening credits, clutching phones rather than guns, and facing in three different directions it certainly didn’t look like it. Despite their matching Catholic school girl skirts— hiked up of course— somehow giving the appearance of a common bond, their isolation from one another in their tri–directional posturings as they texted seemed to say otherwise.
After doing a little shopping at Costco we sat down before leaving, to enjoy a soft serve ice cream and plan the next two or three stops we needed to make. While doing that, I did a little people watching, and eavesdropping. (It sometimes gives me great ideas for stories!) At several neighbouring tables, parents were being bombarded with their ever curious preschooler’s questions “Mummy, why does that lady have blue hair?” “Mommy, why is ketchup red?” “Daddy, Is pizza still OK to eat if it falls on the floor?” I noticed that a lot of the answers to questions, from people who were out of my line of vision, were things like “She likes it that way.” “Because mustard is yellow.” or “Ask your mother.”
What kind of idiot tells a little person, who is probably already eating the floor grit garnished pizza, to ask their mother if they should? When? At home? When she gets back from work and the kid is already throwing up? I couldn’t help myself, I cranked right around to look at the anonymous miscreant. I saw his adorable little angel with her face full of pizza sauce, and him texting away— oblivious to what she may or may not have been up to while he was on the phone!
What is it about communication these days anyway? There is more of it than there ever was, and yet ironically, at precisely the same time, there is less of it than there ever was! People are so caught up in trying to jump to respond to every text message and e-mail that they are too busy for anything better than that. As your wide-eyed, curly-haired, four-year old stares up adoringly at you Daddy can’t you give her more of yourself than “Yes.” “No.” or “Ask your mother”? As your little boy questions things like the colour of ketchup, Mommy, he just gave you the opportunity to explain where things come from, that ketchup is made from tomatoes, and that tomatoes are red when they’re ripe and green when they’re not, and other good stuff that he should know. Instead you are getting the latest update on who is mad at who and why, and other boring trivial stuff that will all change in five minutes when they will have to send you another text to update the first one. Meanwhile your son or daughter asks you “What it is like when someone dies?” and you reply “If you wanted fries you should have told me you wanted fries!”
Pay attention people! Its not so much that technology is so rapid paced that we’re all stressed out by the pace we’re trying to keep. It’s that we’re not really communicating with one another anymore face to face in the casual bus stop kind of way people used to enjoy. It helps to feel that someone cares enough to smile or say “Hello” for no other reason than the fact that you matter as a person— even one who they don’t know yet. We don’t need to be Forest Gump, telling our whole life story; just slow things down and learn to communicate in a way that’s real with people. When’s the last time you called someone when the thought of them being all on their own came up? When did you last go on a walk with your son or daughter after school and just listen to them without interruption? How long has it been since you turned up at your neighbour’s door with a plate of homemade cookies? or an invitation to have a coffee together down at the corner? or a few peppers from your garden?
Let’s start reconnecting again. And if you are really looking for the man or the woman of your dreams, then head on down to the art gallery, or the library, or the community college or the Y for a fun course. And leave your phone at home! I have a definite bias in suggesting that you head off on Sunday morning to a place that will actually give you a warm welcome and plenty to talk about afterwards—church. Many churches actually have refreshments and a time for meeting people and talking face to face after their services. They aren’t all held in that big intimidating brick building with the daunting stairs leading up to them either— some even meet in movie theatres, or coffee shops, or even people’s homes. You never really know what can happen. You may find communication on an entirely different level than what you were expecting! I’d certainly say it beats the bar scene. Imagine that one, without alcohol— “Nice bar.” “Yes” “I’ve met many fine individuals here.” “That’s nice.” “Good drinks too.” “Yes.” “Want to text me later?” “Sounds good.””I’ll be going home now.” “OK” “Here’s my number.” “Thanks.”
Speaking of communicating in a very real way, it’s time I called my Mom, and a few of the other family members who are on their own too, and if I hurry I can throw together a Quiche for my daughter and her husband Phil for supper. Maybe real men don’t eat Quiche, but beggars can’t be choosers and anyway, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get… unless I text Carrie beforehand to let her know— but where’s the fun in that?