As I was standing in a long line at the bank the other day, minding my own business (and by that I mean: mindlessly wasting time on my iPhone by either repeatedly checking email, looking at my Facebook wall, or tweeting a one-liner I hoped my small list of followers would appreciate), a well-dressed, strong looking man in his 60′s was eyeing me. He was wearing a Fedora. And he was wearing it well.
“Do you know what the problem is with your generation?” he asked me, in a strong voice that I can only describe as a cross between Bernie Mac and Eddie Murphy doing a James Brown impression.
Uh-oh. No good conversation has ever followed that question. Did I mention that I was minding my own business?
“We haven’t quite figured out how to look good in hats?” I offered, trying to be somewhat amusing.
He was not amused. “It’s all your darn technology, with the iPhones and the smart phones and all the time you spend typing on them. You know what that’s going to do to you, right?”
“Create a generation of X-Men-like characters with enhanced robot arms able to accomplish three times the things they used to?” Strike two.
“You’re going to cause damage to your fingers and your wrists – you’ll see,” he started, still maintaining direct, confident eye contact with me. “And you’re going to have doctor bills that are so high, our health care system won’t be able to support it. Those phones also mess with the neurons in your brain. You’re all liable to go crazy if you’re not careful.”
Wow. My first thought was that this must be the very reason why most of my friends have made the switch to only using ATMs. But then for some reason -– probably out of fear –- I pondered Bernie/Eddie’s words. Is all of the attention I give my iPhone really necessary and productive? I quickly thought of the many ways I put my iPhone to use recently. While in line, I had taken care of three e-mails that I wouldn’t have to deal with when I got back to my desk. A few days earlier, I was able to quickly look up what singer my wife’s friend looks like (it was Josh Groban). On a recent flight home, I was able to keep my 21-month-old daughter occupied –- and not crying –- by showing her some Elmo apps I downloaded for her.
Would those emails have been waiting for me at my desk? Would my life have been just as fulfilling had I not gotten the instant gratification of looking up Josh Groban? Could I have entertained my daughter by just talking to her on the plane? Yes, yes and probably (her mood swings at this age are unpredictable). But for better or worse, that “darn technology” has become a part of my daily life. I don’t view it as a distraction or a substitute for noticing the world around me or taking a minute to stop to smell the roses. It is just a device that comforts me (in a way that Bernie/Eddie can’t understand), whether it be emailing, Skyping with family, or firing off some angry birds. I wanted to share some of this insight with him, but he beat me to the punch.
“And you know what else it is about your generation? Y’all take too much Viagra. And you don’t even need it. It’s just a recreational thing for you, I’ve heard. Me, I’m in my 60′s and I was telling this woman at the club the other day that I’ve never had to take it once.” I didn’t stick around for strike three.
Phone Photo by Billy Janes