My son and I took the bus today to the library (a favorite jaunt) and, as I’ve observed before, the bus is a curiously popular place to have cellphone conversations. In about a two mile distance, we listened to one guy talking to his buddy about a football game, and watched with amazement as a teenager stood at the bus stop, waiting for the bus, on her phone, then stayed on the phone, flashing her pass and otherwise not acknowledging anyone, even the driver. What’s with people and cell phones anyway?
I have a cellphone, as does my wife, but I still don’t get it. What is it about cellphones that spontaneously disables people’s better sense of civility and polite behavior? I don’t go to a café to listen to the woman next to me argue with someone at her office, via cellphone, I don’t take the bus so I can hear a young woman counsel her girlfriend about dating strategies, and I don’t expect to barely escape getting hit by a car in a parking lot because the driver’s lost in a phone conversation, but they’re common occurances.
There’s something inisidious about the cellphone, partially because it’s so small, and partially because our society has gradually lost all sense of civil behavior in the last few decades. Ironically, the 80’s were the “me” generation, but cellphone usage is the tip of the self-centered behavior of our own times, isn’t it?
Last week the Boulder, Colorado city council passed a no pandhandling on Pearl Street law, to the frustration of civil libertarians and slackers everywhere. Yet this is the same place where my daughter doesn’t like to visit any more because of the (sometimes remarkably) aggressive youth asking for a handout. Some of them don’t take “no” for an answer, and it’s rather overwhleming for me, let alone my kids. But isn’t that in-your-face behavior coming from the same place as the “god given right to talk on the cellphone wherever I may be” attitude of more well-to-do people?
I just wonder how far we can travel down this road as a society, frankly. What would a society look like if everyone was totally focused on their own welfare, rights, and actions, to the complete exclusion of everyone else?