The other morning, I was at Target, trying to find an item with the help of a clerk, when a woman standing in Housewares gave us a bit of a look because she was trying to have a phone conversation.
Shortly thereafter, on the way back home, I saw a car firmly smashed into the back of another.
It was, I heard later, because a driver was on a cell phone.
Later at Chili’s, if for no other reason than it seemed to be evolving into the Subject Of The Day, I looked around to notice three people on their phones as they waited for a table, several more with an ear wedged as they sat at their tables and, in what I was hoping was simply a polite gesture, another woman standing outside, trying to complete her call before coming inside.
As we grapple with the big issues of the time — health insurance, pension reform, whether the Cubs will ever make a gosh-darned Series — yet another one often baffles me:
Are we all so busy now that we don’t have any other time to talk on the phone, except when we’re busy doing something else?
If you troll Main in Normal on a weekday, college students by the droves walk the sidewalks, a phone cranked to their ears.
At the mall, you can’t walk 50 feet without seeing someone else on a phone.
At a busy intersection, if you look around, at least one motorist will be elephant-eared to a phone.
At the Sprint store the other day, I saw two customers looking for phones while they talked on the phones they already had.
By my calculations, for roughly the first 225 years of this country, no one ever talked on a telephone that wasn’t laced to a desk or wall.
E.T. didn’t have a cell phone.
Nixon didn’t wiretape a Samsung.
Hitchcock didn’t “Punch Or Text M For Murder.”
If not for a wired pay phone in a phone booth, Clark Kent would have never changed into tights.
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But now, as if life has become so tightly scripted that people have no other time to talk, we constantly use and/or chat on our phones during what used to be down, in-between or travel times.
Whereas we used to leave home or office to get away from the phone, now we get away from them to instead use it.
It’s become our anthem — when you have a spare moment today, don't just stop to do nothing and relax — do something else instead!
Get on your cell between appointments and stops.
Crank up your laptop at McDonald’s or Coffee Hound so you can work during down time.
Do another errand between errands as you pick up supper on the way home.
It's bled down to our kids, too.
They have tighter schedules today than the adults. And when they do have time, they spend their time … on their phones.
Don't get me wrong — I am as guilty as the next who feels pushed for time.
I have a computer that works at a speed unfathomable just a few years ago, doing things I would have never ever imagined. But already I groan how woefully slow it can be at times.
I get mad while standing in the "12 Items Or Less" and notice the guy in front of me has 17.
I have a microwave that can cook all of supper in 8¾ minutes, but sometimes even that now seems doggedly s-l-o-w.
As that clerk at Target was saying the other morn, as we looked for that item: “These people and their phones! I just wish they'd come to shop instead of talk, too."
The unwitting result of our hurry-up-to-do-something-else lifestyle, in an age with 12,000 gadgets that help save us time?
There just seems to be no time anymore for just time.
Call me if you disagree, of course.
Bill Flick is at email@example.com