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Next time I don’t care who it is who walks smack into me while looking straight down as they’re texting or tweeting on their Fartberry, or whatever the hell else it is that just became obsolete five minutes after it was put out, I’m gonna clock them, (especially if it’s a ninety-seven pound girl, because I’m not as brave as I am mad mad.) This zombie-like behavior has now really spiraled too far out of control for me. If it’s not some ordinarily private person yelling into their cell phone in the bank, telling the world, and more importantly me, about their anal fistula being drained (which image I now have to take with me to dinner), then it’s some pubescent tween, thumbs moving at the speed of a panicked hummingbird who’s annoying the crap outta me. What is this world coming to when even my close friends, many of whom are certified old people, are also sending tweets and texts? The only saving grace about that is at least they’re just walking into walls. The other day a guy, looking down while working his thumbs furiously, walked right in front of my car. It’s a good thing I was in traffic and moving somewhat slowly – and the thing is, he never even looked up as I stopped short, just kept right on texting and walking. Is this why Mother Nature in Her infinite wisdom gave us opposable thumbs? Was this Her Grand Design? Did She plan for Verizon? I know women are good contingency planners, but this is really taking it one step too far.

Of course I can understand the need to be in constant contact if one is in the middle of a business negotiation big or small, or if one has any kind of situation which must require ongoing attention. But it used to be that when you had a telephone conversation it was usually private, even if it was about nothing more than passing the time of day. Public telephone booths had doors on them for a reason. And it used to be the telephone wasn’t permanently attached to a person’s body. I envision a new procedure, a Radical Cellectomy, wherein a tiny cell phone is surgically implanted into everyone’s skull at birth – controlled by a computerized yarmulke-like cap on your head.

While I might have a bit of the Luddite in me, I do not think it is of the orthodox kind in that I’m far from being against technology per se, although some of it – okay – maybe most of it, is way too intrusive for my taste and growing more so every day – I’m obviously using technology right now to compose this rant…and I’m looking down as I am. But I’m alone and sitting at my desk.  What I’m against are people who are walking, sitting, jogging, even driving, with their head down not being where they actually are, or else they are speaking about the unspeakable while on the check-out line at the supermarket, the common denominator being that they have a dysfunctional need to be in constant virtual contact about anything, and everything, under the sun – and with someone somewhere else, and sometimes anyone else. It seems to me to be yet another symptom of some great world-wide crisis of the fear of being alone with one’s self -even for a moment.  You’ve got to give it up for advertising, or branding, or whatever the latest terminology is, to promote a telephone as the smartphone…thereby pinning the label of smart on everyone who buys it, when in fact there’s only one brain between the two of them, and I’ll leave you to hazard a guess as to who owns it. It frightens the crap outta me that a phone can be waaay smarter than the person using it. I mean, like totally dude.

The other day at the gym a young lady got on a treadmill two away from me and began talking on her cell phone non-stop for seventeen minutes! – And loudly. I timed it because I was working up a good piss-off. Finally, after turning to glare at her three times, and she looking back at me only to continue her high decibel yakking, and with steam coming out of my ears, I moved over to the treadmill right next to her, started it up, began walking, and started singing Fats Domino’s I’m Walkin’, also really loud;

I’m walkin’, yes indeed,

     an’ I’m talking ’by you ‘n me,

     I’m hopin’ you’ll come back to me,

     I’m lonely , as I can be,

     I’m waitin’, for your company — in the middle of the second verse Miss Oblivious America looks at me, I look at her, still singing, I’m hopin’ you’ll come back to me, and then finally she stops, gets off her treadmill, and, shaking her head – shaking her head??? – she walks away… a small but sweet victory. The thing is, of course she thought I was the one intruding on her space. I sure better have been. But I had to become a real putz to try to get through to her. I guess I failed dismally, and in the bargain I felt too much like the character Larry David portrays on Curb. In hindsight, I’m not so happy about that part of it. And I’m not saying that I expect the gym is going to be a quiet place given the noise of the machines, the insipid soundtrack, and the general sounds of sweaty activity…but having to endure an inane personal conversation about tank tops, Jell-O shots, and her friends’ rash, is, I guess, where I draw the line. Also, in what to me is really some kind of perverse joke, being on that treadmill would be the perfect situation in which to look down and text!

So that’s what it’s come to – having to be a singing moron to try to get a point across that I’m sure sailed straight over her head. I can just hear her loudly telling her friends on her cell phone – maybe at her friend’s grandfather’s funeral service, “…I mean, like this old creep just comes right next to me and starts singing this dumb-ass song in my face and – excuse me mourners, but like I’m trying to have a conversation here…” And then deigning to note the mourners’ complaints, she’ll change to texting, and, eyes down, walk into the priest delivering the eulogy at the gravesite, knocking him head first into the freshly dug grave…just having myself a pleasant little non-sexual fantasy for a change.

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