Monday, February 29, 2016

Drop the Phone and Step Away...

Time for a granny rant, I think, but I’ll start with a pleasant trip down memory lane. When I was small, there were telephones in most houses in the town where I lived, although many were party lines. The type of ring told if the call was for you.  Some folks snooped on their neighbors by listening in. Although it wasn’t polite, people did it sometimes. If you had any sense, you didn’t share secrets on the phone.

Then we got a private line. This came even before the television did, in an old house we’d just moved into. Daddy was back from the war now and had gotten a better job, so we could leave Grandpa & Grandma’s. Post War, housing was tight everywhere, as were jobs.

 “Ma Bell” was the omnipresent phone company. Her stock was stable and her employees were many and well paid. In the mid-fifties, we moved to upstate NY and I learned to call my grandparents by dialing the operator and giving her the number and the name. You’d hang on the line until she got the connection, or, if it was taking a long time, she would call back when the connection was made.   This was an expensive service and not done casually, especially by kids. Life went on, more connections were made across the world, area codes appeared and operators disappeared, and so on, but essentially, nothing basic changed—until the arrival of the cell phone.

Through that handy portal, we entered the funhouse of now, where the cell phone has not only become a camera, but is linked to the internet. This enticing, ever-expanding labyrinth leads us along, paying no attention to where we're really going--into the science fiction belly the beast. Our fascination with the electronic world shapes us, our behavior, even the wiring in our brains.   There's no way to stop it as long as the grid stays up. All we can do is attempt to stay sufficiently objective to observe the world as it changes around us, while we watch the people on every side becoming more and more engrossed in their devices. Some people--on foot and worse, in cars--aren't looking where they are going anymore. All their attention is focused on that little box in their hand. 

The only thing left to do now is to occasionally be an old cow of a busy-body at the coffee shop, and remind young mothers to stop fixating on their darn phones and pay attention to the kids they've got strapped into those fancy strollers, the ones they are currently ignoring. Kids are only small, adorable and plastic like that for a very brief time. It will be over before you know it.

This is time when you are supposed to bond with them, to love them, talk to them and just as important, listen to them. It’s when they learn to be human, so now's when you've got to shine on them like the sun. Remember, too, adolescence will be here in no time, so you better forge a good relationship now. Remember, too, “the cat’s in the cradle…”

 ~~Juliet Waldron


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