Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Age of Self-Importance

Technology is a blessing and a curse all wrapped up in a nice little package called the mobile or cellular telephone aka wireless communications device. I actually remember selling cell phones for Cellular One way back in 1990-1991. There was the Motorola Bag Phone, which weighed about as much as a 5-year-old notebook computer and the Motorola “Brick” as we called it, which was a handheld phone that was bigger than most people’s hands and didn’t have the full wattage output of the Bag Phone. Most people didn’t see the need for a mobile phone at that time, but the novelty helped sell them. Today we can’t seem to live without them.

What a fantastic tool the cell phone can be! It has very likely saved as many lives as it has helped end. Unfortunately, it has also led us to what I am calling “The Age of Self-Importance.” I have come to the conclusion that talking on a cell phone in public makes a person feel very important…so much so that they don’t really care who they are annoying by doing it…because they are just so darn important and you aren’t.

Some real-life examples for your consideration:

In the building I work in there is a company-sponsored daycare center on the ground floor. As I’m walking into the building in the mornings, parents are getting their youngsters out of the car, gathering their paraphernalia, and walking them in to the daycare center. I can’t tell you how often I see a mom holding the cell phone to the ear with the shoulder, trying to get the stroller together, the diaper bag out, the child/children organized, totally unaware of everything going on around her. How many times as I walk by I think about the fact that despite all the on-campus security, this part of town is far from good, and how easy it would be for some ill-intentioned person to simply walk by and pick up the purse from the driver’s seat, where the door is wide open, while mom is at the back of the SUV dealing with the children and the very important phone conversation or perhaps do something worse to this family. It could all happen very quickly and she would not have noticed a thing.

This past weekend my dear wife and I went to the movies, for the first time in months. I had wanted to see this movie on the big screen despite the fact that I really dislike the movie theater experience. Why? Because of the cell phone. We generally sit in the very back, very top row of the stadium-style auditorium so I don’t have to deal with people behind me, talking and kicking my seat...besides, it’s a good view of the screen. Unfortunately, I forgot that my view of the auditorium would include very small, very bright screens popping on and off as people text their friends and do whatever it is they do during a movie that they paid ten bucks to watch and are not watching. During the quietest, most poignant moments of the movie, we all have to be subjected to a very loud cell phone rendition of Drop It Like Its Hot followed by “Yo! Whassup? Not much, just watching a movie…” The icing on the cake was in the form of a woman sitting to my left (not dear wife who was on the right) with a 5-year-old on her lap (who thankfully slept through most of the movie) and engaged in multiple text messages and two phone conversations during the movie! What is wrong with people? Have they totally lost all sense of propriety, decency and mannerly behavior? We even have this same problem at church. At solemn meetings of worship! Not to mention this morning in the elevator…four of us and I was the only one not on the phone. In an elevator! They were making me dizzy…how could they even pay attention to their own conversations?

Hello! You are not that important! Put technology back in its place…it is a tool…a good tool, but it is still only a tool. It does not make or break you as a person. Get over it and learn respect. Respect yourself and respect those around you and only then might you gain respect from your fellow humans.