Friday, September 4, 2009

Can't see the forest for the tweets

The gardening company is currently swarming over our apartment grounds with noisy, smelly leaf blowers. You know that the loathesome toad who invented this gadget from hell probably owns a jet, several homes and has an offshore account in the Caymans. How gratifying it would be if, whenever a gas-powered leafblower were used anywhere in the world, he had to personally deal with the exhaust, the noise and the flying debris. Would he go deaf or be overcome first by carbon monoxide poisoning?

It's a hard choice but my current nomination for the most anti-social, insulating and obnoxious commercials go to "Clear" broadband which seems on a quest to make sure every American is never more than a foot away from the broadband or cellphone tit. I differentiate between these commercials, which disgust me, and the Chase commercials ("you're everywhere to me") which are simply frightening. There are Stepford people out there who would welcome the oversized, ubiquitous image of Big Brother and stand in line for broadband cranial implants.

A couple of days ago I was putting my purchases in my pack in our neighborhood quik mart when the guy behind me barged to the counter, cellphone glued to his ear and pushed his stuff at the clerk. He didn't make eye contact, didn't acknowledge that another human being was helping him and didn't react to the clerk's, "Thank you." He just kept jabbering into the phone. It was a personal call and obviously not urgent. After he left, I told the clerk that I found his behavior extremely rude. She defended him by saying that she often had to take business cell calls while helping customers. I countered that she had no choice . . . and the guy who dissed her DID. Then I said that, since it must happen often, it was probably a good thing that she didn't take it personally.

The message someone like this guy projects is that nobody matters but the person he is talking to, and - ultimately - himself. He is not interested in meeting anyone new. He is not interested in manners or any sort of interactive, community-based behavior. His behavior was completely selfish.

I see people pulling their dogs down the sidewalk with phone-glued-to-ear. No stopping, no sniffing, no contact. Many of these people have been working all day. Their pet has been at home, alone, waiting for them to return. What could be personal interactive time with a beloved pet has turned into a mindless jabbering phone activity where the dog comes in a distant second in the attentions of the owner. Clear Broadband reinforces this crap trend by running a commercial where a woman arrives at the dog park with a laptop, releases her dog to run unattended and begins to yammer to someone on the screen ("I'm at the dog park!").

Obviously I'm not Qwest, Comcast or Clear's target consumer (despite burying me in mountains of newspaper inserts and junk mail circulars) because I tell you it gives me hives to think of being so constantly accessible to anyone who wants to tweet, e-mail, blog or call me salivating to a phone with a trendy ring-tone. I don't own a cell phone or an IPod and I don't want one. Life is short. I prefer to enjoy the day, the strangers, the view when I'm out walking or when I am having coffee. Some of the most interesting conversations I've experienced have been on occasions when people shared my table or stopped to talk on a street corner. I prefer the opportunity to enlarge my world.

There's something ironic about technological advances in communication that result in greater personal isolation.

In her marvelous book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, author Fannie Flag writes, ". . . there's something else I want you always to remember. There are magnificent beings on this earth . . . that are walking around posing as humans." Someone who lives life with a cellphone glued to their ear is unlikely to meet one of these beings.

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