Back in the Nineteenth Century, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds . . . .” That was before smart phones and text messages, and his phrase still went viral. As you may recall from Part I, an Alaska Airlines’ text interrupted my curmudgeonly musings. Was reading that text hypocritical? Hadn’t I just written about how rude reading a text in mid conversation is? Of course, that begs the question of whether a hobgoblin hangs out in your or my attic.
These days, people walk around with their eyes cast downward. They are not watching the ground -- trying to avoid cracks in the sidewalk. They are not introverted or bashful -- trying to avoid eye contact. Instead, they are reading, or sending, text messages. They are making sure that their communications -- with somebody not in their presence -- are instant.
Sometimes, walking texters appear oblivious to their surroundings -- mesmerized by their smart phones. You will see them walk into an intersection without the slightest attention to traffic or the light. One walking texter was so transfixed that he was unconscious to an oncoming fire engine -- red lights flashing and siren blurring. Fortunately, somebody on the corner was not texting and pulled the texter back to safety.
Would we rather be run over than neglect somebody with whom we are connected in cyberspace? Are the walking texters thinking, “Tactile interpersonal contact be damned. My friend is online, and, if I don’t respond, she will think that I am an inattentive oaf”? Luckily, those thoughts are not terminated with a splat. You know, as in what is the last thing that passes through a bug’s brain when it hits a windshield? Its anus.
Driving texters make walking texters look like minor leaguers. You see them doing 75 miles per hour with one eye on the road and the other on the mobile phone. On city streets, they text from light to light rolling up to -- or into -- intersections. A skilled multi-tasker can shave, comb his hair, drink coffee, eat an Egg McMuffin, read emails, and text -- all while driving to work. Yes, you got it, while driving in rush hour bumper-to-bumper traffic with a bunch of other driving texters!
The good news is that the same technology mavens that made “text” a verb are working to protect the zombies they create. Google -- the proper noun, not the verb -- is testing a car that will drive itself -- an “autonomous” car. Walking texters will not have to worry being hit by cars in intersections; they only will have to worry about emergency vehicles. And they can get the odds of that happening from their mobile device. Driving texters no longer will be drivers -- they will be texters only.
Once the texters are safe -- except from the occasional emergency vehicle or a technologically impaired older car -- maybe they will not feel compelled to text at the dinner table, in restaurants, or meetings. Don’t be too optimistic though. Until peers register some degree of indignation or insult when someone stops a face-to-face conversation to read and respond to text messages, we remain technology’s tools.
Upon coming to the realization that these anachronistic ramblings are whispers lost in technology’s thunder, I think, “I’m getting too old for this [fill in the blank for PG, PG-17, or R]. Time to get back to some rock ‘n roll!”