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.


Do you actively worry about the state of the world?

There are weeks, aren’t there, when all the news is bad, when new studies come out that tell us texting, climate change, and lack of personal eye contact with each other will be the ruination of everything. Maps are published that show how rising seas will eat away at coastlines, then states, then countries.

My grandparents thought radio and then TV and then Elvis were signs of a degraded populace. Every generation seems to point at some habit or phase of the next generation that spells doom. As we get older, we find out that not only our parents’ generation but our parents themselves were wilder when they were kids than they would acknowledge when we were growing up and pushing various envelopes.

The soothsayers seem to rejoice in proclaiming “The end is near.”

With gobal warming, I begin to wonder if the end is near. A lot of people are denying that it’s happening–in spite of the evidence. And that includes the current administration, one that is also rolling back clean air and water protections and other environmental rules. I remember when Jay Leno, on the old Tonight Show, used to interview people on the street about historical and other facts that my generation saw as baseline knowledge. More often than not, people didn’t even know the name of our President, where California is, and other basic facts.

Is our texting generation creating anew this aura of general stupidity about how the world works, where states and countries are, and whether or not rising seas constitute a real problem? I hate texting–so, I have a bias. But sidewalks filled with people who are looking at their cellphones is disturbing. What the hell can y’all possibly be talking about that’s more important than where you are and the people around you?

Do things like this worry you?

I’m beginning to wonder if I should start a new blog called “The end is near.”


I wonder how many people think there’s another eclipse today

The information warning signs, many with messages like ECLIPSE TODAY – EXPECT DELAYS probably reminded people about potential traffic congestion. The thing is, the highway department hasn’t taken down the signs. They were still there yesterday and this morning.

One wonders how many drivers think there’s another eclipse coming. That would probably be the same group who had to be warned–in the eclipse tips category–don’t wear your eclipse viewing glasses while driving if you’re on the road during totality.

Meanwhile, the funniest sign I’ve heard about so far is this one from the Iowa DOT:

I’m sure people were texting and driving during the eclipse. GOSH IT SURE IS DARK. CAN’T EVEN  SEE ANY TRAFFIC. Duh.

We enjoyed the eclipse along with totality’s chorus of singing tree frogs. Hope you had a great experience as well.


Seriously, why do I need to know everything right now?

We’re living in a right now world.

Of course, it’s always now.

But the now I care about is the now I can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.

  • skunkIf I’m enjoying smelling the roses in my side yard, I don’t really need an “urgent” text message from a friend saying, OMG I just ran over a skunk on Interstate 75. (Unless the skunk or the smell of the skunk caused a car wreck, this information can wait until later–or possibly never.)
  • When I turn on CNN, I see that the words “BREAKING NEWS” are always on the TV screen even if the news happened a week ago. The primary breaking news on CNN is that a bunch of talking heads are telling me what they thing about the news rather than covering actual news. (I got fooled by this at first and though some hideous events were happening over and over again.)
  • Looking for interesting posts on Facebook, I don’t need to see status updates that look like this: “Good one.” “Oh no, look at that chick’s ugly dress.” “What a bunch of crap.” “Yikes, the killer is getting away.” (I took me a while to figure out that the people posting these updates weren’t necessarily crazy–though that’s possible. They were making comments about some TV show they were watching, you know, like were were all watching it together.
  • When I’m busy defusing a bomb that somebody left under the hood of my car after watching the movie called “Speed,” I don’t really want to get a slough of voice mail messages from you saying stuff like this: “Hi Malcolm, this is Bob, just calling to see if you’re still alive.” “Malcolm, I know you’re not dead, please pick up.” “If you don’t answer your GD phone when I call you, why do you have a GD  phone?” (Bob, the Earth circles around the sun rather than around you.)
  • When I’m watching an exciting episode of NCIS, I don’t really want my local network station to preempt the the show with five minutes of emergency “JUST HAPPENED” commentary about a dead skunk on the Interstate with on-the scene coverage from reporters saying, “This is Bob Smith standing next to a dead skunk a mile south of the Highway 53 exit for Calhoun. It smells really bad. Back to you at the station, Susan.” (Meanwhile, I missed the stunning conclusion of my program and have gotten back to the network feed in time for a Preparation H commercial.)
  • Let’s say I just ran over a skunk on I-75. You send me a text message: “7132 hh lol”  (First, I need to remind you that looking at text messages while I’m driving is illegal in Georgia. Second, I need to remind you that I hate text messages because typing is a lot more trouble than actually talking. Finally, I have no clue what that gibberish means anyway and think maybe you’re a troll or a hooker.)
  • I try to avoid Twitter because most of it’s gibberish from people who think I care about what they’re doing right now as opposed to what I’m doing right now. When you say, “fantastic sex with my hooker BF is happening while I tweet,” I want to respond with “TMI.” (Actually, I don’t want to respond at all and will assume you’re insane, arrogant, or are having lousy sex that leaves you time to be on Twitter.)
  • If you just discovered minutes ago that a Hollywood star most of us thought had been dead for years has just now passed away, it really means you just now heard of it and think that my life will be changed forever if I don’t know about it immediately. (As it usually turns out, the breaking news in this information is the fact you just heard about it even thought it happened last week.)

There are days when I want to throw away my cell phone, swear off Facebook and Twitter, and stop listening to the so-called breaking news that isn’t breaking.

If you just discovered something, please don’t call.*


*Unless you think I just ran over a skunk and want me to know there’s a bomb in my car that will go off if I don’t keep going at over 55 mph in spite of the smell.