[Preamble: Woah, it’s been too long since I’ve posted here. Guess I was too busy HAVING A LIFE.]
And yes, I own this album.
One of my favourite visual jokes in the UK comedy series, The Vicar of Dibley, is when the idiosyncratic church music director, gyrating with legs and arms akimbo as he conducted his choir, whips out his cellphone mid-chorus, hits a button, smiles and nods, thumb-taps a reply, pockets the phone and carries on gesticulating without missing a demi-quaver. It was choreography. It was great physical humour. It was funny. Then.
I find one of the upsides of being relegated to a crappy old flip-phone is that is discourages me from using it much:
- partly out of fear that this older technology could permanently curl the Hobbit hair on the outer ridge of my ear, so I keep my calls short
- partly because it flags the fact that I was gullible enough to sign on for a slower-than-the-speed-of-Bell multi-year contract, so I prefer to hide my fetter
- mercifully, the signal where we live is weak – I actually lost a call to Bell’s support line when I phoned to ask why – so I’m less tempted to use it from home
The other, and right now the more important, feature besides the dead-end non-syncable directory, is that it pretty much shames me into stowing the thing away, or even turning it off, when I’m spending time with someone else. And not just because it’s bug-ugly.
My inner Luddite is inching further out on the passive-aggressive limb every time a breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee date, business discussion, walk, browse, moment of reflection or just plain ol’ human-to-human conversation is interrupted, not just by a Pavlovian buzz, bing or impersonalized ringtone, but the conditioned slavish impulse to actually answer the thing.
Of course there’s grace for a couple of instances of “I need to take this” in a casual business setting. But if it’s automatic and assumed, it’s a statement.
Think of what it does to your interaction:
- It breaks the continuity of your conversation — cheezy ringtone, break off, check who it is, excuse yourself, respond, one-sided conversation, re-group, “So…” and it’s back to what apparently wasn’t as important or engaging, i.e. you
- It cheapens the time and attention you offered, or was offered to you
- It’s uninvited, for at least one of us
- It’s exclusive and antisocial
- It says, “Do I continue with what you were… sorry, you’ve just been trumped.”
By a flippin’ text message.
And don’t try to tell me it’s okay to take the call if it’s during a lull. Pauses in conversation are the black notes on the keyboard.
Okay, I’ve sinned this way too. And I pray that the iPhone 4 in my not-distant future doesn’t compromise me. But Charmaine and I were recently in a stylish, dimly-lit restaurant for some eye-slobber time and were saddened when a couple sat at the next table. The woman immediately took her smartphone from her purse and placed it on the table next to her cutlery. Think about the decision she planned to make regarding her company.
Okay, maybe her daughter was in labour. Perhaps the other agent promised to call right back with a counteroffer. I suppose there’s an app for tapas pairings. But the phoneless guy across the table had long-term rock-bottom expectations written all over him. The phone was defining the tone without even ringing.
But the nadir of mobile rudeness for me was when a friend I was taking out for a thank-you lunch told his assistant on the way out that she could… Oh, uh, sorry. An email just came in. Be right back.