Hold the Phone

A few nights ago, I sat down for dinner at one of my favorite Owings Mills restaurants. What I went on to witness still has me shaking my head.

Surveying my surroundings, I see at the table nearest to mine what appears to be a typical American family out for an evening meal. A relatively young husband and wife accompanied by their two children. They are sitting together, waiting for their food to arrive.

On the surface, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, seemingly innocuous.

Then, cranking up my “people-watching” skills, I gaze back over to their table and see that there isn’t too much conversation taking place. In fact, no one’s interacting at all. Looking a little closer, I notice that each is fixated on something in their laps.

Craning my neck a bit higher, I see that all four are futzing around on cell phones.

It became clearer to me than ever before, technology has completely taken over our lives, and it’s starting to get embarrassing.

I have no clue what each of them was doing on their phones. Maybe the husband was messaging a business partner while his wife made high-scoring moves on “Words with Friends” and the kids took turns playing “Angry Birds” and “Doodle Jump.” That’s not even important — and it’s not like this family is the lone culprit.

At this point, we live in such an ADD culture that we’re so concerned with filling every waking moment with some kind fleeting, hollow entertainment that we’ve stopped taking the time to simply enjoy each other’s company. We would rather engross ourselves in our 3-inch smartphone screen than look someone in the eye and carry on a conversation.

Maybe I am unique because I’m a reporter, but I actually like being social. It’s fun talking to people, even individuals you’ve never met, because you never know what they might say. Sometimes, that’s my entertainment.

But, how am I supposed to say “how’s it going?” to the fellow riding in the elevator with me when he’s opted to plug his earphones into his iPhone and seclude himself from the outside world.

The other day, I had a wonderful conversation with a woman as I waited in line at a 7-Eleven … that is until I realized she was on a Bluetooth and I was essentially talking to myself for 30 seconds.

(This has happened to me a couple times now, and when you realize what’s happened there’s no dumber feeling in the world.)

I’m not saying we can’t use our cell phones. Don’t throw your mobile out the window and plug in your old rotary telephone. I’m just saying we’ve got to find some balance. We can’t forget how to talk to people — especially the ones close to us — and listen to what they have to say.

That takes me back to the family in the restaurant. Maybe I shouldn’t rush to judge them. I suppose it’s quite possible that all four were just texting each other. I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s the world we live in today.

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