This past weekend, I was lounging at the pool and happened to notice a pretty woman, a recent divorcee. She was babysitting her 6-year-old son who’s an excellent swimmer but she didn’t seem to be watching him.
Her head drooped toward the ground as though the weight of the world was on her rather attractive shoulders. Having gone through divorce myself, I could empathize. Until I realized that her head tilted downward wasn’t depression, she was … texting!
The boy got out of the water and scampered toward the Jacuzzi, but slipped. He wasn’t hurt but residents comforted him as he debated whether to cry or not. (Something I do daily.) Oblivious, his mom continued texting. Maybe it was a hot prospect from a dating website?
To me, texting is emblematic of a generation that wants everything now, if not sooner. Carrie Fisher put it best, “The only thing wrong with instant gratification is that it takes too long.”
Everywhere in Santa Monica one sees people walking with their heads focused downward toward the all-consuming messaging device. The devotion appears almost religious. A klutz myself, I’m impressed that they’re able to walk, talk and text, that is until they occasionally bump into a lamppost. In Manhattan, a distracted 15-year-old female texter fell into an open sewer. Naturally, her family is suing.
As more and more people walk around with their heads bent over, it won’t be long before orthopedic surgeons cash in with neck operations. Similarly, soon dermatologists will be making fortunes in tattoo removal. The tat that looks hot on a college coed is going to look absurd when she’s a grandmother. It’s often lamented that the U.S. doesn’t manufacture anything anymore. Hey, how about tattoos? We’re No. 1!
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld finds it rude when, in the middle of a face-to-face conversation, a friend suddenly starts texting. Seinfeld wonders if it would be OK if, while conversing, he just started reading a magazine. Either way, it seems that eye contact is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
People even text while driving, the thought of which gives me chills. Using cell phones while driving is dangerous enough. Once I was in a crosswalk with Oscar the dog, when, to my horror, I realized that the driver barreling toward us was on his cell and completely distracted.
It was the classic deer in the headlights moment. Which direction would I jump? How would I save Oscar? Finally, the driver heard my blood curdling screams and jammed on the brakes. With adrenaline rushing, it was all I could do not to open the door, grab the cell phone and stomp it into pieces.
The driver’s response? “Hey dude, I didn’t hit you, did I?” Then and there I decided that using a cell phone in the car, without hands free equipment, should be subject to the death penalty.
I was so incensed that I E-mailed a City Council member. (No longer on the council.) I asked if Santa Monica could ban cell phones while driving in our city limits, or at least require hands free. I still remember his/her (not revealing the gender) rather stinging return e-mail. “Jack, maybe we should make a law against women putting on lipstick while driving?” I e-mailed back, “By all means.”
I’m generally not a big “law and order” guy. I’m more of a “when I’m in a crosswalk I’d like to get to the other side alive” guy. After hands-free had become state law, I bumped into the former council member. I reminded him/her of my suggestion from years ago. Unfortunately his/her memory was fuzzy. Then again while we were chatting, and I’m not joking, he/she was texting. Rather than pull my hair out, I politely excused myself
Many cell phone users are seemingly oblivious to others around them. Not long ago I was alone in my building elevator when a 30-something woman got on and continued talking on her cell as though I was invisible. She rambled on about an ex-boyfriend who apparently was not only a lousy lover, he had stolen money from her. (What a catch.)
Finally, I blurted out, “Excuse me, in case you haven’t noticed, you’re not alone in this elevator.” Angrily, she told her friend that she would call her right back and glared at me with dagger eyes.
“How dare you talk to me that way,” she barked. “You don’t even know me.” “Exactly my point!” I countered. “And that’s why I don’t want to know about your thieving ex-boyfriend and his E.D. issues.”
Amidst an awkward silence, when the elevator arrived at my floor I exited casually. Out of curiosity, I turned around as the doors slowly closed. The woman had a stunned, “I’ve never been so insulted in my life” look. I, on the other hand, felt surprisingly chipper.
When he isn’t in a crosswalk dodging distracted drivers using cell phones, Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.