It was a beautiful day in Nashville yesterday, so I decided to eat lunch outside on the patio of a small self-serve restaurant in my neighborhood.
As I was carrying my food tray out to the table, I noticed a couple sitting nearby with their heads bowed. I thought, “That’s nice. Most people don’t stop to say Grace when they eat in public places.”
I put my meal onto my table, took a sip of my iced tea, and sat facing the couple. Their heads were still bowed. I thought they must be really be thankful. They are offering up the longest prayer in history.
Then, upon closer examination, I realized they were not praying at all. They were shielding their cell phones from the sunlight and were staring into their laps checking their messages.
In a few minutes, another gentleman came outside alone, put his meal on his table, and immediately pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket. He sat down, put his napkin in his lap, and looked at his phone again. He had only taken a few bites when a lady joined him. He acknowledged her presence by checking his phone one more time as she was taking her seat.
Cell phones and our instant technology capabilities today are remarkable. I have two cell phones, including a new iPhone 4S that my manager, Lee, gave me for Christmas. I use my phones every day, and I’m thankful for the ability to stay connected to my office, my family, and my friends. But I’ve established some ground rules for myself.
I never take my phone into a songwriting session, a business meeting, or allow it intrude upon time with my family. When I have lunch with someone, I leave my phone in the car. I don’t want the person I’m with to feel as though they only have a portion of my attention.
I realize not everybody has the luxury that I have of using my phone only when I find it’s convenient. There are salesmen waiting on that order from a client, family members who must stay reachable for children or elderly loved ones. Nurses, doctors, so many people who rely heavily on technology we didn’t even have a few years ago. And I’m certainly not one to want to turn back the clock to the days of pay phones in a booth on the corner.
But it really irritates me when people allow their cell phones to run their lives. Conversations stop while people check to see who else wants their attention. It’s like someone saying, “You’re not as important as another person who may be reaching out to me.” I’m not sure the couple at the table ever spoke to one another throughout their entire meal. They were too busy communicating with others. Sorry, but I think that’s rude.
I will not be a slave to my cell phone. Or my computer. Or any other device that takes me away from face time with the special people in my life. I have voice mail and people can always leave me a message. I’ll return their calls at a more opportune time.
The title of a song I wrote and recorded a few years ago seems to fit right here: “Nobody asked me…that’s just the way I feel.”
Now excuse me while I go check my messages.