I got on the bus to at New York’s Port Authority and found a single seat in the back. I usually sit in the front so my view is confined to people nearby and the driver’s cubicle. I look out the window, take mental notes on my to do list and before you know it, I’m home. On a rare occasion there is someone interesting I talk to. They share a cliff note version of their life and it’s always sweet and enriching. Still, it’s rare. That being said, I start conversations with strangers without any discomfort. They always respond. I am incredibly fascinated by people and their lives which leads me to ask the question: Why is it so rare?
Today, sitting at the back, provided the answer. A bus full of people spread in front of me and easily 95% of them had cell phones in hand – talking, texting, reading and writing on their little devices. Many, if not most, had ear sets which were completely disconnecting them from the here and now. They were in their own bubble, oblivious to all. You’d have to enter their personal space to strike up a conversation. Hence, I got my answer. You can’t converse with someone who chooses to isolate themselves in public.
The oddest thing I saw recently was a birthday party for a little girl, held at a lower East side restaurant. The parents invited about 10-12 kids and as soon as they all arrived, the phones came out and the texting began. Nary was a word exchanged, aside from a few grunts or a giggle or two in response to the texts. I believe the kids texted others not there as well as people at the table. Kind of pathetic and said if you ask me. It made me a little sad as I watched, my eyes big as saucers. A birthday party and nobody talks or plays with one another?
Smartphones are grand for storing and looking up data. For keeping contacts, dates and to-do lists in one spot. It eliminates the need for keeping bits of paper all over the place which are easily misplaced. Addresses and numbers scribbled on used envelopes which I was bound to lose, but no more. My smartphone syncs with my computer and keeps them all for posterity. Still, our brain is underused, despite the access to far more data. My mom knows every phone number by heart. I know only her number and my cell. I don’t need to remember. My phone does. Right?