I was sitting at a table at La Vida Java with my laptop, working on some writing Monday morning. I was alternating between listening to the music they were playing to listening to the music on my laptop with my earbuds depending on the amount of people coming through and the noise levels. I’ve gotten used to the occasional distraction with all the people who come and go while I’m there. That morning though, there were two distractions that were difficult to let go of. First, a woman walking in on her phone in the throes of what had to be the most important call of her life. Then another woman came to meet with a woman who was sitting about five feet from me and she was loud. So loud that if I turned the music I was listening to through my earbuds up any higher to drown her out, my eardrums would shatter. And forget trying to drown out that laugh. This all left me with the nagging question, what happened to our socialization and manners?
For those of you my around my age, remember the days of just going out to play? Sometimes you’d go out and play by yourself or you’d go out to see what other neighborhood kids were out and join them. Sometimes you just walked over to your friend’s house, knocked on the door, and asked their parents if they could come out to play. Now you have kids that you can pry away from their video games, and if you manage to do that, they pout until they are playing their beloved video game. We have play dates now. For the friends who live outside of walking distance, okay. But, to go next door? Really? A date?
Even kids these days have cell phones and heaven forbid you take that from them. Cell phones were non-existent in my childhood. If we needed to call home, we went inside and used our friend’s phone or we found a pay phone. I see kids who aren’t even 10 with cell phones texting away. If I could see you in person I’d show you the evolution of the cell phone. First we had those ginormous phones that weighed more than a baby and needed its own bag to be carried around. Then they got smaller and all of a sudden, you have people whose phone and hand seem permanently glued to their ear. Enter Bluetooth and you’ve got people walking around talking to air like they have voices in their head. Now, we have phones that pretty much do everything. Call, text, and surf the web. Heads are constantly down as people text or surf constantly. I have flicked a friend’s iPhone while out after he kept taking it out. I have friends and family who cannot let the phone just go when it rings. No, every text and call must be answered on the double! I have no problem letting my phone ring and letting it go to voice mail unless I’m expecting a call that truly is important and not about what paint color my friend finally chose. I try to be mindful. My friends set aside time to be with me and I owe it to them to give them my attention during that time. Then, there is the total stranger angle. First off, I really don’t want to overhear a stranger’s one-sided conversation, especially if they don’t have sense enough to finish the call before walking into an establishment. Second, there is a reason why it’s a “personal” call, I don’t want people overhearing my conversations either.
Maybe it’s just me, but learned growing up that you have manners and respect for others in public. Okay, period. Even if they are total strangers. You don’t talk so loud that you disrupt an entire restaurant. You do for others as you would want them to do for you. To this day, I still open doors for total strangers or help them when they drop stuff and their hands are full. It burns me when I see people who are so rude they can’t even demonstrate simple manners and respect for others. It makes me wonder what parents are teaching their kids at home. Yet, even as I wonder, I know the answer since these are the people who are walking into banks in the middle of the conversation on their phones or texting while pushing a shopping cart down the aisle right into yours.
I would love to see children playing the way they used to. I would love to see adults driving and actually paying attention to the road without a phone in their hand. Your house isn’t going to blow up if you don’t text Betsy Do-Gooder right back. I would love to see kids and adults walking around actually paying attention to their surroundings and truly interacting with the people they are with at the time. I know what I’d love to see is a pretty tall order with our technology continuing to advance. I can still dream though.