Yesterday we were walking the river path close to our house. In a short 3.5 mile distance we passed close to 50 people either walking, running, rollerblading or on bicycles. Calgary has such an intricate and massive pathway system and we are so lucky to live in such close proximity. It was a beautiful day and I couldn’t help but feel all the stress of life fall away. Being retired, there really isn’t much, but… still. As we walked along in silence I noticed the large percentage of folks attached to their phones. Most people who were running or biking had earbuds or headphones. This I get because I love listening to music. What I found amazing were the amount of people looking down at their phones in their hands as they walked. Granted, I walk for pure enjoyment and a little exercise and some of these people were perhaps walking just to get from point A to point B. But I don’t get it.
Over the past few years it seems as though we have become glued to our phones. In a movie theatre Rene and I noticed three women who were sitting together but not talking. They were all on their phones. I made a snarky judgmental comment to Renè. Perhaps it was a little loud since the gal closest to me turned and said, “We were just out for dinner and we talked there.” Then they got to talking together. About me! Still on their phones but with furtive glances my way as they muttered under their breath. At least I gave them a story to text their friends.
One year I had in-laws and some of my own family for Christmas Eve dinner. Three nieces recorded the entire event for us all to enjoy later on facebook. All the while annoying those of us who were trying to enjoy it in real time. Oddly enough, most of us weren’t on Facebook so total strangers were treated to our intimate family gathering. I didn’t care one way or the other. I just didn’t get it. We did stop them from facetiming the family members who were in Hawaii at the time. Just let us eat already.
My most memorable moment was at a family gathering with my in-laws. One niece was chatting with me as well as carrying on text conversations with others. Every sentence was punctuated with “Oh I have a picture of that.” Then five minutes passed while she looked for the picture. Now, my sister in law Suzie was my best friend since grade 7. She happened to be sitting across the living room so I pulled out my phone and called her. Suzie heard the ring, turned and pulled her phone from her purse which was sitting by her chair. As she glanced at the screen, she slowly looked up and across the room. As she mouthed “What?”, I motioned for her to answer. As we sat and chatted on our phones, ten feet away from each other, I waited for my niece to notice. I explained my motives in full detail to Suzie, and she laughed. My niece did notice I was on the phone but she didn’t notice who I was talking to. Nor did she care that I made a call while we were talking. In fact, when I ended the call my niece started back into the conversation where I presumably had left it. I say presumably because I had long since stopped paying attention.
I have had a cell phone since 1992. That first one was massive. Remember those? I have had 5 since that behemoth. I find my phone handy for dealing with renters and rental problems. They email me rent. I organize service people, they send invoices and I pay them. All over the phone. I once used my phone to sign all the documents with a realtor when selling a condo. We were on holidays and the sale was completed while we played golf. I love the convenience of a cell phone. When I can find it. My son in law once told my daughter “Your Mom found her phone.” She asked him to explain his odd comment. “Well”, he replied. “I sent her a text a few days ago and she just texted me back. I’m assuming she just found her phone.” All of my children know if there is an emergency they need to contact their Dad. I’m probably with him.
So why do I have this issue with people who use their cell phones while I am with them? Even crazier, why do I judge people walking by who are absorbed with that little screen? While waiting for a table in a restaurant I find I am usually the only one not on my phone. Am I just mad because I left it in the car? Or is the problem deeper. I have no one to text. Last summer we rode our motorbikes across Canada. Every single day one of my husbands siblings texted him. Making sure he was safe. Where were we? I thought about it and realized no one in my own family knew I was on this long trek. Oh of course I told my kids. Someone needed to water my plants. But my siblings? Why would I tell them? And if I did tell them, they would ask how it went the next time we met. Which could be months. I see my sister once a year. She cruises through Calgary sometime around Stampede and we visit for a few days. We chat now and again on messenger and last year we had coffee at McDonalds outside Montreal. She was on her way to visit in-laws outside Quebec City and we were headed back to Alberta. It was short, sweet and convenient. Anyways, I found myself feeling a little left out on the bike trip. My 62 year old husband had the whole world looking out for him. So I texted my niece Tami. I explained my feelings. Wondering if anyone cared if I lived or died. She replied with a “Thanks for letting me know. Drive safe.” Followed by a happy face. I was happy. Someone cared.
So as all my thoughts rush around my head during my walk, I turn to Rene’ and ask why I am so judgmental. I tell him I used to read my book all the time while walking to school. I can’t count the number of times I tripped as I stepped off a curb. Really! Its not that much different than staring at a phone. He just laughed and said “So, you were just ahead of your time and technology just caught up.” Well that made sense. As we continued on our walk we passed two women walking together looking down at their phones. I passed them with a smug little smile. I was so doing that 50 years ago. I am so ahead of my time.