Everyone matters except who you’re with

The first time I learned how invasive cell phones can be, happened when we invited an old friend over to dinner. We had no sooner dished up the food, when his phone rang and he said, “I’ve got to take this.” I wish I’d said, “No you don’t.” So he talked for a while about unimportant things, without having enough sense to step into another room or outside, so we couldn’t talk to each other or, if we’d had multiple guests, to anyone else at the table.

I don’t know enough about cellphones to know whether there’s a way to call somebody that indicates whether the call is urgent or whether the call is just to chat. As an old codger, I think it’s rude when cell phone users allow incoming calls to take precedence over the people they’re talking to in person–unless there’s an “emergency” ringtone or symbol.

Years ago, I worked for a company in which managers and others were required to always answer their work cellphones. Picture this. Eight of us are having a department meeting while three of those attending are talking on their cellphones while the rest of us do what–sit and wait, I guess.

When it comes to family groups and friends, I don’t understand the point of meeting for dinner at an expensive restaurant if three or four of the people are busy texting rather than participating in the conversation. No wonder people say we’re all turning stupid: we’re not listening.

I often think we’re being heard. I invite you out for coffee to tell you about a problem, your phone rings, and you say, “I’ve to take this.” From what I can hear of your side of the conversation, it’s just chit chat. What I want to do is throw down enough money on the table to cover the bill and leave.

If I stay, what’s to be gained? The people who say “I’ve got to take this” are stealing time from the people they’re with, and discounting them as well. No wonder so many people feel alone and isolated in our brave new world of instant communication.


The Kindle version of Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel “Fate’s Arrows” will be on sale on October 4th for 99 cents.