“Put that phone down, Mama. Your food is getting cold. What are you? Twelve-years-old?”
I glanced up from my phone and noticed our server holding a coffee pot and flashing a rosy-cheeked smile. Apparently, she had just called me out on my phone usage while dining in her café.
I gave her one of my taken aback “I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that” looks.
First off, I have never had anyone call me ‘Mama’ other than the person who is supposed to call me Mama and he calls me Mom.
Once our server caught on that she might have offended me, she said, “Oh, I say that all the time to my best friends. I just don’t want your food to get cold.”
I recognized right away that I had done what I don’t like others doing. Jerry had patiently sat with me while I sent a text, with attached picture of the restaurant’s quaint décor, to my friend Phyllis. I wanted to tell her we had arrived at the café she had recommended.
I apologized to Jerry, and he said kindly, “No problem.”
These days, I’m so wrapped up in the text world that I no longer live in the real world. If my phone chimes [[Ding!]], I’m compelled to look at my phone and see who sent me a message. I don’t know why, but a strange unknown force pulls my fingers toward the tiny keypad on the phone. I can’t fight it.
It seems others can’t fight it either. (Excuse me, my phone just buzzed….) Back now…Whenever I’m in line at the grocery store or post office, people in front of me and behind me finger-tap their phones while gaping at the screen. While at the nail salon a week ago, I witnessed a Smartphone hypnotizing a young girl, maybe 8-years-old. She never once moved her eyes away from the phone’s mesmerizing “you’re getting sleepy” screen.
Smartphones not only hypnotize, but they interfere. They interrupt the natural order of our lives. We used to go out for coffee with friends and talk with each other. Now, we go out for coffee with our friends but we don’t talk to each other. Instead, we text our friends who aren’t having coffee with us. We text: “Having so much fun. 2 bad you didn’t join us [coffee cup emoji, heart emoji, girl swinging from chandelier emoji].”
We post our status on Facebook, “I’m at Ooh La La Latte right now.” We take phone calls from the friends who aren’t enjoying coffee with us. “Yes, Bronwyn is having the hazelnut latte with extra foam and I’m having the caramel macchiato.”
We actually don’t even talk with the friend we have coffee with. We wait until we get home and then send each other a text, “Sure enjoyed our coffee time together.”
A week ago, I embarked on an excursion to the zoo with a dear friend and her three young sons. I loved petting the stingrays, feeding the giraffes, in addition to viewing the flamingos, the sleeping tiger, and the massive back end of an elephant who refused to turn around. But what I loved the most happened on our ride home.
“Mom, can we watch a video?” one of the boys asked.
My friend has the type of van that will transform to a movie theater for the backseat crowd. All she has to do is pop in a DVD and pass out the popcorn. Kids no longer holler, “Are we there yet?” Today’s kids recline in the back, munching on snacks and watching Mulan. This is so-ooo not my childhood. As kids, we rode in the backseat with nothing to entertain us but the back of the heads of our parents.
My friend said to her son who asked to watch a movie, “No, not today.”
I’m sure we were all thinking right about then what a boring ride home we’re all going to have. But then something wonderful happened. One of the boys, I don’t remember who, suggested we play car games and tell jokes.
I loved the car game of having others guess the food we hate. The only clue we could give is the first letter of the horrid food. My letter “L” took a long time before they guessed licorice.
We laughed and learned so much about each other. One doesn’t like fish, or fruit snacks, or pigeon (don’t ask).
We didn’t have phones distracting us. Just us having fun with each other.
Last night, while working as a volunteer for Compassion International at a concert headlined by singer Steven Curtis Chapman, I realized how much better it is to connect in the real world. When my volunteer duties began winding down, I had the opportunity to hear Chapman’s performance and sit with my friends in the audience.
Chapman said, “We only have the moment we have now.” He explained we spend too much time thinking what we want to do, or have to do, or plan to do, or what we did do, or didn’t do. We don’t live in the moment.
He asked everyone in the audience, and there were thousands of us, to share a moment together. He asked us to stand and dance with the person seated next to us while he sang. As his beautiful song started, Phyllis and I danced together in the small space given between concert seats. Kathy joined us at our encouragement. Everyone else in all the other rows danced with the people seated next to them.
I enjoyed the moment. I enjoyed the music. I didn’t even check my phone messages.
It made me realize, the moments we treasure are when we’re present.
I promised Jerry I will never look at my phone again when I’m dining with him. “Oh Bronwyn, that’s okay,” he said.
No, it’s not okay.
[[Ding!]] Oh! Oh! A phone message for me? Got to go now.