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.”