Around Christmas I was at a dinner party (nothing fancy, no tuxedos). At one point, I heard the cell phone buzz of the guy seated next to me. He fished it out of his pocket, looked at the message, then put it away. It was a girl friend of his (not even a girlfriend, just a gal he knows). “I’ll call her later,” he muttered. In a minute or two, it buzzed again. Same drill. Then it buzzed a third time. This message was clear and insistent: “WHERE R U???” Curiosity got the better of him; he excused himself from the table and left the room to call her.
I’ve seen this happen numerous times since then. We all have cell phones now. And if someone wants to get a hold of you, they assume they’ll be able to. People have what I call the Expectation Of Contact. Whether it’s a text message or an actual call, nowadays there is no reason to not be able to get a hold of someone. There is no excuse; the assumption is that you can and will respond to a text message or answer your phone. And if you don’t, people will keep trying and trying until you do.
I shouldn’t be surprised. People looooooove to talk.
I have a favorite pastime. When I’m sitting at a stoplight or in heavy traffic, I’ll watch the cars going by in the other direction and count how many drivers are talking on their cell phones. Let’s call them “cell phone talker-drivers” or CPT-D’s for short. It varies depending on the time of day, but the number can be as many as 60%, a figure I found astonishing.
Do people really need to talk that badly? Evidently.
Anecdotally, I’ll note here, and it will probably not be popular to say this, but the vast majority of CPT-D’s are women. I know that sounds sexist, but it gets worse. Here in Pensacola, black women CPT-D’s far outnumber whites. If you see a black woman driving a car in this town, I’ll guarantee that she’s talking on her phone. Or is about to. Or has just hung up.
I’m just sayin’.
I was in the Pensacola Airport one day, waiting for Air Tran’s 6 o’clock departure to Atlanta. Across from me sat a very pretty, and very young black girl in her crisp Navy white uniform. While we waited for the flight to be called, this girl spent the entire time on her phone - on two separate calls. Realize, this was 5:15 in the morning. Of course, she might have been talking to people in the Eastern Time Zone, which would have made it 6:15 for them. Still, pretty early. She talked incessantly, non-stop about some inane crap (those around her couldn’t help eavesdropping, as the terminal is pretty quiet at that hour of the morning). She talked all through the boarding process, and even as she got onto the plane when I lost track of her.
People do love to talk.
The Expectation Of Contact works both ways. People simply cannot be out of touch. There is a neurotic need to be able to be contacted. Most of my friends now have these super-neat iPhones or Blackberry’s. The internet in your pocket! Oh, if it would only stay in your pocket… When we go out - to eat, say - the phone gets placed on the table, face up so the owner can see any text messages or Facebook posts that come in. Because God-forbid someone might send you a message and you not receive it for an hour or so! The phone is consulted regularly, and many people I know think nothing of saying, “Hold on, I have to answer this,” and then responding to a text message.
The phone has become the third-party...the uninvited guest. When I first started noticing it, I used to get royally pissed-off. Now I shrug it off. It is what it is. In my opinion, people have become horribly rude and inconsiderate.
And there is nothing you can do about it. If you call to their attention how rude they’re being, they’ll simply deny it. To them, it is not rude at all. We live in the age of the Expectation Of Contact. Simple as that. The phone is not an intrusion anymore, it is a great societal benefit! Now, you don’t have to be separate from your friends and family merely because they’re not in your presence. They can still be here! At any gathering of people these days, cell phones are always out and always in use.
I must be old-fashioned. I leave my cell phone in the car when I go out to dinner or even to a bar. There is nobody that needs to get a hold of me that badly that it cannot wait. There is nobody I might suddenly, urgently need to call or text while I’m with other people. I don’t have to check Facebook that often.
I know that technology has brought us all kinds of tremendous devices that we simply cannot live without. And I know I’m being a Luddite, but sometimes I wish that cell phones had never been invented.