About twenty years ago, I was listening to the radio, and I heard an interview with a local business owner. He was asked, “How do you start your day?” He replied, “First, I check my e-mail.” Wow, I thought. That must be so cool. He is so important, he gets e-mail messages.
The moral of this story is, be careful what you wish for.
Most of us get plenty of e-mail messages today, meaning far too many. On any given day, I hit “delete” until my finger is sore, without even reading beyond the subject line. I don’t know these foreign princes, pharmaceutical miracle workers, or political activists, but somehow they have found me. Sure, I block them, but that’s like playing “whack-a-mole.” They’ll just pop up again later.
It makes me nostalgic for the old days, when all we had to worry about was junk mail. Yes, there was an occasional phone call during dinner, or a random knock on the door from a vacuum cleaner salesman, but nothing compared to the deluge of today.
Although e-mail is a widely used form of communication, there are many others. People will frequently ask me, “Why haven’t you answered my message?” “Gee, I didn’t see it,” I reply. “Well, I sent it more than a week ago,” they say.
So I begin my search. How did I miss it? I look in my e-mail junk folder. And how insulting is that? “I didn’t get your message because you were in my junk pile.” “Well, get me out of there!”
My search for the missing correspondence takes me to social media. Was it a Twitter message? A Facebook message? A text? “No,” they will say. “I sent you an Instagram.” When I tell them I don’t do Instagram, they’ll say, “Well, next time, I’ll connect with you on LinkedIn.” Sorry, you won’t find me there, either. “Here, let me give you a business card,” I’ll say. “Just call me.” They look at me like I have a third eye. “You mean, on the phone?” they say. “Sure,” I reply. “Well…if that’s what I have to do,” they say, as if I had asked them to lift a Chrysler.
Unbeknownst to some, those little gadgets they carry still make phone calls. Many believe their primary purpose is to take pictures. Recently, I was using an actual Nikon camera to take some shots, and my younger co-workers laughed as if I were Moses holding the stone tablets.
Not that long ago, you would see teenagers crossing a busy street, phone planted firmly on ear. But that is so, so 2008. Now, these “smartphone zombies” are staring at the screen, or sending text messages, paying no attention to approaching traffic.
Their attitude is, why talk to someone, when you can simply send a text? Does anyone remember the last time a guy actually used the spoken word to ask a girl out? I believe George Bush was president, and I don’t mean “W.”
I often wonder how life would have been, if texting had come first, followed by the invention of voice phone calls. “Guys, you’ll never believe this. They’ve come up with something new! We don’t have to use our thumbs anymore! There’s no more auto-correct, sending out the wrong words!” (I once sent my wife a text, intending to say, “I will call you later today.” Somehow it came out “I will call you Larry today.” She was not amused.)
Anyway, the conversation would have continued: “So what’s this new invention?” “Well, now you can actually SPEAK to your friend on the other end. And they can talk back! They can hear you, and you can hear them! It’s just like you’re face to face!” The streets would have erupted in joy, and people would have talked to one another again. Too bad it worked out the other way around.
Speaking of bygone days, back in ancient times you could go on vacation, lounge on the beach, and leave your annoying co-workers behind. No more. Your beloved smartphone is rarely out of reach, leading to awkward conversations like this. “Harry, where are you?” “Oh, I’m at Daytona, just enjoying the scenery.” “Great. Do you remember where you filed those papers from that account?” “Uh, dude, I’m on vacation.” “Right. So which shoebox did you file them in?”
I long for the days when a vacation meant “a period in which regular activity is suspended,” like it says in the dictionary. Those wondrous little phones are eating into our much-needed down time.
Most saddening of all is this fact. Most of the parents who have been arrested for leaving their child in a hot car did not forget their phone. To quote a memorable line from the movie “Moonstruck,” snap out of it!