Hold the Phone

A lot has been written about cellphone etiquette lately, but that’s not going to stop me from adding my two cents’ worth to the discussion.  It has become a pet peeve of mine, coming in a close second to people who like to rant about their pet peeves.

I’m not the only one who’s exasperated with the increase in “techno-rudeness” encountered every day by folks all across the social strata.

My daughter and her family were at a restaurant with their kids, aged 10 and almost 9.  When they go out as a family, they expect the occasion to be just that—a family one, where everyone is engaged with the other members of the group.  At the very least, eye contact is expected to occur at some point during the meal.  Conversation doesn’t have to be witty and sparkling, but actual utterances beyond the monosyllabic shouldn’t be the exception.

However, as my daughter told me later, they were taken aback by the family seated next to them; one that was quite similar in composition to theirs, with pre-teen kids and two parents.

The difference, though, was that everyone, including the kids, was on an iPhone busily texting or otherwise absorbed in their own electronic world.  No one looked up at the other family members gathered around the table.

No warm smiles, no shared laughter.  Nada.  Zip.  Bupkus.

This is what we have come to.

No man is an island, but you can certainly tune out any intimate contact with people and go there on your iPhone when it’s convenient.

The other thing about cellphones that makes me “peevish” is the sheer obliviousness by chronic users of this technology to their own rudeness.

I was at WalMart the other day (they’re going to set up a cot for me in the back since I’m there so often) because I had to return a toy I’d bought for my grandson.

It was a Ben 10 Ultimate Alien “Ultimatrix,” and unless you are up on the stuff 10-year-old boys covet, I won’t go into the details beyond saying that he’s desperately wanted one since last August when all the Christmas toys first made their appearance at WalMart.

At that time it cost twenty dollars, which is a lot of money for some plastic, but the toy manufacturers know what they’re doing and have us all by the habichuelas, so what’re you gonna do?

Last week they marked down the toy to just seven dollars.  What a deal!  My grandson had four dollars saved and I told him he could do some chores around the house and easily earn the other three dollars.  The fly in the ointment here is that Mom and Dad have been trying to discourage rampant consumerism in their kids and have been keeping the lid down on toy consumption lately.

But, Memaw saw a way around that.  I went back to WalMart the next day and bought the toy before it disappeared from the sale rack with the idea that I would hold it in safe keeping until my grandson could earn the dough to pay for it.

It turns out, the next day my grandson phoned me and in an excited voice told me he’d done a lot of yard work for his folks and earned the money for his prize, which he had purchased himself.  I was happy for him and didn’t tell him or his parents that I’d done an end run around them and had bought one too.

Everybody wins!

So, I found myself at the returns desk at WalMart behind the most obnoxious woman who was loudly talking on her cellphone while she was trying to conduct a transaction with the patient woman behind the counter.

I mean, she was jabbering into the phone while she was looking straight at the WalMart lady, Rosa, an Hispanic woman in her fifties.

But it was like Rosa was invisible!

To her credit, Rosa just kept a neutral expression on her face and carried out what she had to do for the bitch, occasionally trying to get a word in edgewise to complete the deal.  Unbelievable.

When it was my turn, I thought Rosa deserved to be treated like a human being, so when she asked for the reason for the return I briefly told her the story of my grandson earning the money himself without any help from me.

Rosa smiled a warm smile and told me that when her son was five, her sister had a house cleaning company and had offered him a job of picking up fruit off the ground at one of the houses.  She paid him $20 for his work and he was very proud of the money he made.

Then, he did something extraordinary for a five-year-old.  He told his mother he was going to take her out to dinner with the money.  And he did, proudly squiring his mother at the restaurant.

Rosa went on to say that now he’s 28, a Marine, college educated and on his way to obtaining a doctorate degree.  Eventually he wants to work for the CIA.  She is so proud of him and I told her she has every right to be.

It was a wonderful story and the woman who had been standing behind us said she couldn’t help overhear it and it had given her goosebumps.

I left feeling really good for my grandson, for Rosa and her terrific grown son, and for the human connection I’d unexpectedly made that day.

And all because I chose to treat someone with the respect they deserve.

As the old phone ads used to say:  “Reach out and touch someone.”

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18 thoughts on “Hold the Phone

  1. You inspire me, dear. I never talk on my cell phone in front of others in a public place, but I don’t engage the people I encounter at stores, either. I’m sure I’m missing out.

    Oh, and CA banned hand-held cell phone use in cars. We were there and watched folks line up for the headsets and blue tooth devices. By our next visit, the cops had given up entirely on that law. I was sitting at a light behind a lady who was jabbering non-stop on a hand-held set. The cop in the lane next to her glanced over as they light changed and Blabber Mouth accelerated both the car and the conversation. Cop didn’t even blink. I think that was about the time CA realized it was stone broke and the public service jobs were being decimated, so it hadn’t the manpower to write those lucrative cell phone tickets. So it goes.

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    • People in Texas really are quite friendly, especially in the small city where we live. Chatting up folks in stores is pretty much a given here.

      I’m sure they have abandoned trying to enforce cellphone ordinances in CA. Some of the cities are so broke they’re outsourcing their police and fire departments to bigger cities. If you call 911 you just might get someone in India on the other end of the line.

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  2. I don’t know why, but this post reminds me of how much I used to love flying at night. Years ago, I traveled a lot for my job – long before movies, computers, phones etc on planes. IN fact back when real meals on real trays were served by real people.

    Flying at night when the lights were low and everyone had had a few cocktails and felling mellow led to some of the most intimate and warm conversations with perfect strangers. It was a wonderful experience and I miss that.

    Oh, and a lady got thrown off a train recdnetly by police because she’d been on her phone for hours and refused the pleas of passengers to desist. The cops got her!

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    • I’m glad this brought back some good memories for you, Moe!

      As for the lady on the train, I was at our local park a couple of years ago with the grandkids and a woman who was there with her kids took a phone call on her cell. She went out of her way to come over and stand near where I was sitting. She talked for about 10 minutes before I got fed up and moved away—I really didn’t want to hear about all of her father’s problems. Then she kept talking for about 30 minutes more! In that whole damned park she just HAD to be that close to me. I will never understand people.

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  3. Our ability to communicate anywhere, any time has resulted in a complete lack of meaningful communication. And worse. I recently sat next to an older-than-me foreign woman on a train who had hever been on Amtrak before. We both left from Philly. She was to meet a friend at a certain stop outside DC and was extremely nervous. I sat next to her on the train and spoke to her the entire time to calm her down and kept repeating that I would make sure she got off at the correct stop. Throughout the ride, a twenty-something DC mover-and-shaker was speaking very loudly on his cell about real estate deals he was involved in. He was standing right near the exit. At the woman’s stop, I got his attention, pointed to her and asked him “Can you please help her off the train?” and I smiled. He pointed to his phone and turned away. Bravo to your daughter and her family. Bravo to Rosa’s grandson. Bravo to you. I feel like we are all an endangered species.

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    • And bravo to you for being so kind to the lady on the train! As for the schmuck on the cellphone…hmph!

      It has always irritated me (even before the days of cellphones) how some people will give their undivided attention to a caller on the phone to the detriment of the person standing right in front of them.

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  4. absolutely lovely tale! kurt vonnegut, jr. explained this as “farting around” — going out, saying hi to people, doing your errands with your head up and brain plugged in… sounds like a grand adventure to me!

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  5. Great story about Rosa–shows the benefits of treating everyone like a human being. As far as cell phones, that is my pet rant, especially with families in restaurants. The parents have outsourced their responsibilities to the techno toys.

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    • I remember when my older brother was a teen he had to talk on our only telephone with a jacket over his head so no one would hear his conversations with his friends. Now, kids take their phones to school and text back and forth in class.

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  6. Everywhere I go, I see young kids, some as young as 11 or 12 staring down into the screen of their cellphones, unaware that the world is going by. Their world has become some piece of technology 12 inches from their face. They’re missing so much going on, but I’m sure they don’t even realize it. What a shame.

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    • It’s like Lifeintheboomerlane’s comment about the guy who was talking on his phone and didn’t want to be bothered to help the foreign lady. I’m afraid many will be more interested in following someone on Twitter than actually having any kind of real relationship face to face.

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  7. Totally amazing post, and so true. I am so used to the flip side- someone behind the counter deals with a customer on the phone instead of waiting on me (why is someone calling more important than someome waiting in line? Phone calling is just line skipping) that I never see it this way.

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    • Thanks, bmj2k! Yes, it all too often is the other way around, which is why this incident made such an impression on me.

      And I had kind of gotten used to people talking loudly into their phones less than a foot away from me, but this woman really takes the cake. It reminds me of the old “Get Smart” teevee show where they would go into the Cone of Silence and yell at each other.

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  8. Bravo for being so human to a working person, but also for sharing the story here. We have to use our voices in a positive, productive and progressive manner which does not mean at the exculsion of other human beings. Rudeness is rampant and we need to speak up.

    You have been kind and wise for overriding bad manners.

    Please keep being exemplary. Sterling!!

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  9. I’m glad you shared this story. They need to bring back the old ‘reach out and touch someone’ commercial. It is true.
    I also like how a negative ripple started by the woman in front of you was turned around and changed to a positive ripple both to Rosa and the woman behind you. Well done, TTPT!
    ~ Lenore

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    • Thanks, Lenore Diane! I hadn’t been aware that the lady behind me was paying that much attention, but when she chimed in about how Rosa’s story affected her too, that made me feel particularly good about speaking up.

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