Sunday, May 19, 2013

. . . And Two Thumbs Down

     I see the way kids are raised today. Honestly, it's not a whole lot different from the way we were raised -- maybe we've progressed a little. Most of the teens and 20-somethings I know aren't sneaking behind the garage to cop a cigarette, the way we were, and it truly seems that most of them watch less TV than we did.

     But there are two habits of theirs that drive me crazy.

     B's son comes over for dinner once every two weeks or so, depending on his schedule. It's good to see him, and it's nice that he still feels a connection strong enough with his mother that he makes the effort, even though he has a job, a girlfriend, his own friends and activities, his own apartment.

     But here's the thing. We're getting ready for dinner. B's preparing the food. I'm setting the table. And B's son sits at the table, completely ignoring us, tip tapping into his smart phone.

     We sit down for dinner. B asks a few questions of her son, who smiles and relates what he's been doing for the week, maybe a problem at work, or some friends he's seeing. And the conversation continues apace, until suddenly I notice that B and I talking together while her son is sitting there, looking down below the table, and again he's typing into his phone.

     His mother asks him politely to put his phone away, and he does, and the conversation goes on, until B and I are talking to each other again, and her son is back at his phone.

     Then he'll look up. "Oh, I have to go." He needs to meet someone, and get on the road for his next activity . . . having never really fully engaged in this current activity.

      I don't mean to pick on B's son. All the 20-somethings do it -- they give you half their attention, while the other half is focused on their phone or tablet, and some other conversation, some other activity, some other circle of friends.

     My sister was in town last week, and we went to a wine bar to listen to some live music. At one point I noticed that the singer was blasting away on his guitar, singing his heart out about a love gone bad, and half the audience was aglow in the reflected light of their cellphones -- giving the band just half their attention.

     So that's one thumb down. What's the other? A related issue.

     I'm supposed to pick up my daughter at the train. She's moving and is coming out to the house to leave some of the stuff from her old apartment in our basement. That's fine. The problem is that I can't pin her down as to when she's actually coming. First it was Wednesday night. Then she emailed me that she couldn't make it. She'd come Friday instead, sometime after she woke up; it wouldn't be too early because she'd be out late, but she'd call me from the train.

     Okay, I emailed back, but how about calling me when she woke up so she could give me a couple of hours notice, instead of a few minutes, so I could plan my day. I didn't want to have to sit around all afternoon waiting for her.

     So Friday comes. No call by 11 a.m. No call by 1 p.m. No call by 3 p.m. I had a repairman coming over to the house around 5 or 5:30, and I needed to be here to talk to him. I started worrying that I'd be out picking up my daughter at 5 p.m. So, finally, I call her. Of course, she doesn't answer. No 20-something answers their cellphone. I leave a message. Please get on the train by 4 p.m., so I can pick you up and get back to the house by 5 p.m.

     Finally, she calls back. She's on the train. She'll be here by 4:45. I rush over to the station, I'm back for the repairman, and we all have dinner together.

     But why can't a 20-something make a plan and stick to it? If everything is fluid, everything changeable, everything subject to last-minute updates via text message or facebook, then nobody else can make a plan for their day . . . they have to sit around and wait for you.

     Again, I don't mean to pick on my daughter. All the 20-somethings do it. They skip from place to place, always connected by phone, never making plans, just jumping from one activity to another. (According to the recent Time magazine story on Millennials, 70 percent of 20-somethings check their cellphones hourly, "interacting all day long by taking 'selfie' photos and seeking constant approval -- 'Someone liked my status update!'")

     Oh, I guess I do have one more thumb down. Kids! When we call you, answer the damn phone!

     In the meantime, say what you want about Paul Lynde (1926 - 1982) -- but the guy could be pretty hilarious, especially when talking about kids.


DJan said...

I was on the bus the other day, with about a dozen other riders. Every single young person had their noses buried in their cell phones. Doing what? I cannot imagine. I have a cell phone also, but I don't spend my life playing with it.

It's simply rude not to give someone who is picking you up some notice, Tom. That is the whole feeling of your post today: rude behavior. Is that what Millennials are all like? I hope not! :-)

Kay Dennison said...

What DJan said.

Anonymous said...

I, who average 11 minutes per month on my SmartPhone, so Verizon tells me , feel your pain. I think that "kids" (the late teens and 20-somethings weren't considered to be "kids" in my day, but adults!) no longer feel like individuals. They feel like part of the hive and become agitated when separated from their umbilicals.
Cop Car

Mac n' Janet said...

I hate cell phones and hate what they've done to us. I see people studying their phones while their child is hanging on them saying "Mommy, Mommy", I saw a couple dancing one night and she was talking on her phone all through the dance.

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas said...

DJan hit it. It's rudeness, plain and simple. At one time the phone was something ignored at dinner time and starting a conversation with a 3rd party while talking with someone was just not done. And today we routinely tolerate people breaking off a conversation to answer a cell phone or reply to a text message. The key here is we tolerate the rude behavior and now that behavior has become "normal" and "acceptable." It's a pity. But I do not see it changing.

Banjo Steve said...

I am trying to remember those "good old days" when either we (?) were walking while having one of those small )?) transistor radios held close to our ear or when we (?) walked along with those infamous boom boxes blasting the neighborhood. But, of course, part of the point of the latter was to irritate the old fuddy duddies. :)

But I do agree that the cell phone obsessions are a real problem - though I always try to avoid those sweeping generalizations - indeed, do ALL the 20-something kids do that? It seems that a whole lot of 30 to 40 year old "kids" do it too.

Another aspect of all this is that these cell phones certainly let individuals get overrun with the minutia of life. What a shame.

Lorna said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Tom, someone calling himself "Jack" with your blog address left a message on my site suggesting I proofread my posts. I don't think it was you, and I sent the comment to spam. If it wasn't you, some wiseacre has hijacked your ID. Dianne

PS this might make it difficult for you to leave a comment on my site. Let me know via email if you can't leave a comment...please.

As for your entry today, don't get me started. As a historian, I can share that this rude behaviour is not new. Dianne

Linda Myers said...

I laughed as I read your post. My son texted me to say he'd be coming over today. I haven't seen him in several months. I asked when. No answer. So now I choose - go to an optional activity at noon, or wait? And he is 33!

Recently my husband and I took our three Santa Fe-based grandchildren to dinner. All three of them were on their phones. I said, "The next time we come, we won't take you to dinner if you bring your phones." They all shrugged!!

Kathleen McCoy said...

It drives me crazy to be with someone who isn't fully present. It's one thing if someone is dealing with an emergency and is watching or on the phone. It's quite another to be with someone who is just....what? .. some would say multi-tasking, some would say multi-minding....I would say just plain rude.

Stephen Hayes said...

Our 32 year old son has sat at our table with his cell phone in hand and it IS very irritating. His mother won't let me say anything or he might not come at all---like he'd give up the free meals.

Bob Lowry said...

You struck a chord with this post, Tom. Like many "improvements," cell phones offer tremendous advantages to land line phones.

But, when misused they can cause real harm to relationships, civility, and normal human interactions.

It is about moderation. For too many, regardless of their age, cell phones seem to destroy any understanding of moderation.

Anonymous said...

My son in law and his 3 yr old son are forever playing with a cell phone or iPAD at dinner parties. Finally, I emailed my SIL to leave his electronic gadgets at home. So far, he has.

Donna said...

Hello from Texas...
The 20 yr olds do it because they Know You will be the one to bend...stop bending.
My lesson learned the hard way.
I no longer bend and They do as they Said they would.

Retired Syd said...

I wish this behavior was limited to "kids", but unfortunately, I am continually annoyed by the cell phone as distractor to dining companions of all ages, including my 65-year old step-mom!

As to answering the phone, you'll rarely catch me answering mine. If I'm eating dinner, if I'm having lunch with a friend, if I'm driving, if I'm working out, if I'm in a meeting, if I'm in an elevator, well most of the time, I'm not going to answer it. I will only answer it if I'm in a private place like my home, and not while guests are here.

But I'm the only one, it seems, that has these rules. Even when I call my friends, they pick up the phone, let me talk for a couple seconds and then say, "I can't talk right now, I'm doing xyz." So why did they pick up the phone in the first place?

Remember the old days, you couldn't answer the phone when you weren't home. That's kind of how I operate. said...

Thanks Tom. Dianne

Riverwatch said...

I never really believed in UFO's until my grown son stood beside me engrossed in his very smart phone. I asked him a question and he TEXTED ME THE ANSWER! His face was back-lighted eerily by his phone, giving his face a grey-green sheen. His lips were pulled in to a thin straight line of concentration. No emotion on his face. Eyes, bugged in glossy concentration on his very smart phone. "I am looking at a grey-in-evolution", I thought in alarm.

Sooze481 said...

And I thought I was the only one with kids so "distracted"! I can't tell you the number of times that plans have been cancelled at the last minute due to some unforeseen situation that came up suddenly! Usually my son or DIL "forgot" they had committed to something else!
And that whole thing about waiting for them to call and let you know, while YOUR whole life is on hold!
Angry tears have been shed! Believe me! Did we teach our kids this? Is our generation to blame?