Unplugging from Technology to Reboot Manners

A few days ago, as I was driving out of a local shopping center, I came upon a women standing in the center of the road texting.  She was not walking or moving.  She was just standing there texting.  Since I did not know which way she might move, I tooted my horn lightly just to let her know that I was going to be driving within a foot of her unmoving body.  I didn’t lean on the horn, just  a polite soft toot.  And what did she do?  She turned around and made a rude gesture in my direction.  I was stunned.  I was trying to be polite and also safe.  She obviously did not care.  She felt it was her right to stand and text wherever she wanted, even though it is called a roadway and not a “standway.”

I had just told this story to a friend when, much to my surprise, the news reported that the actress/singer Patti LuPone, who is currently appearing in New York, came off the stage and took the phone out of the hand of an audience member in the front of the orchestra who was texting non-stop during the performance.  In her interview later with the New York Times, Ms. LuPone talked about how hard it is to perform and tell a story when phones ring  and when people text constantly while the performance is going on.  I not only would wonder why they bothered to come to the show, but would consider what they did rude.  Or do they just have an attitude of entitlement and think that they could do whatever they want, whenever they want.

But what about the lady in the middle of the road?  Was she being rude?  Acting entitled?  Maybe both?  Other than the imminent death of a loved one, is there anything so pressing that you cannot walk 10 feet to the side of the road?  Or is it just that we have been taken over by such a pressing need to be so in touch all the time,  that we have forgotten manners, safety, and the ability to focus on one thing and enjoy it.

I wondered what kind of role models these women are for their children, and was reminded of a meal I shared some time ago in my home.  The visiting family had two children, and the mom kept asking the children to turn off their electronic devices and come to the table.  But when we finally sat down to dinner, mom had her cell phone next to her plate and glanced at it frequently during the meal. Rather than be offended, I felt sorry for her.  She missed some great conversation and was never fully present with her hosts, the other guests or her kids.

I will get down off of my soapbox now, but hope that these anecdotes will lead some people to ask themselves, as my experience did for me, do I really need to text/talk/read email now?  Is this how I want others to think of me?  Is this how I want to be present in my life?