Dorothy Rosby
contributing columnist
I walk into my company’s restroom and a coworker in one of the stalls speaks. I say, “Excuse me.” She says something else I can’t understand. I say, “I’m sorry. What did you say?” She says, “I wasn’t talking to YOU!” Oh.
I apologize and she flushes.
I want to ask if she realizes the person she’s talking to on her cellphone probably heard the flush too. I want to ask her why, as a working mother, she’s not taking full advantage of a rare opportunity to be alone in a restroom stall. I want to ask her what she’ll do if she drops her phone. But I don’t say anything. I don’t want to interrupt her if she’s making another call.
I’m taking an early morning walk in the park. I see just two other walkers. One passes me talking on her cellphone; the other comes toward me, staring at hers. Neither of them responds to my “good morning.” I want to tell them, “I can’t think of many people I’d like to hear from at 6 o’clock in the morning and even fewer who would like to hear from me.” I want to say, “You’re missing the birds twittering while you’re tweeting!” I don’t though. I have no way of knowing if she’s tweeting. But I do know she isn’t one of the few people who’d like to hear from me at 6 a.m.
There are ten relatives packed into my living room. Four of them are staring at screens of one kind or another, probably keeping up on Facebook. I want to say, “Hey, I’m your Facebook friend, and I’m standing right here!” I don’t though, because I’m afraid they’ll unfriend me.
I go out for dinner with my husband and son and they stare at their cellphones. I want to take my own phone out, call one of them, and ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” I don’t though, because I’m busy watching the television screen over their heads.
Enough! I’ve been silent about this issue too long. Devices that were designed to improve communication are ruining it face-to-face. Technology that was meant to make life better is making it more stressful. And it’s all because we think we can multi-task better than we can. Stop before you do something crazy!
You could flush your cellphone. You could rear-end a police car while you’re texting and driving. You could tell the gas station clerk standing in front of you that you’ll be home by 8, and your husband on the cellphone that you’ve got gas.
That might be the worst of all—trying to carry out a business transaction with one person while you’re having a cellphone conversation with another. This isn’t just a matter of courtesy; it’s a matter of self-protection.
Let’s say you’re standing in line at the deli and at the precise moment it’s your turn to order, your cellphone rings. You answer and say, “Hi, Sweetie.”
The clerk says, “Uh, hi.”
You say “hi” back.
The clerk says, “Can I help you?”
You say to your spouse, “Just a minute, honey.” The clerk blushes. Your spouse says, “Quick question.”
You say, “I said just a minute.” The clerk looks hurt.
You say, “I’ll take a roast beef on wheat.”
Your spouse says, “Do we have any mustard?” at the same time as the clerk says, “Would you like mayo?”
You say to the clerk, “No mayo. Just mustard.”
Your spouse says, “We do have mayo, but I don’t see any mustard.”
You say to your spouse, “Yes, we have mayo. I’ll get mustard.”
The clerk says, “What?”
You can see how rude it is to carry on a conversation with one person on your cellphone while you’re doing business with another. But if you really feel you must, the least you can do is order them a sandwich too.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact [email protected]