In 2005 I was at a convention of city magazines in Chicago. During the breaks between sessions, I noticed how practically everyone was standing in the hall with a hand to their ear, a phenomenon my mom used to describe as people looking like they had earaches. By then the age of universal cell phones had already arrived, but to see them used so intensely in one concentrated setting was amusing.
Last week I attended the same conference, this time in Providence, R.I. During the first couple of breaks, I looked to see the earache people and noticed that they were not there. No one was using his or her cell phone. What happened?
I realized the answer once the sessions started. While speakers spoke, I glanced around and noticed that those in the audience were staring down pecking messages on their laptops, smart phones or iPads. There was no need to wait for a break; the messages flowed continuously.
Remembering those conventions makes me, I will admit, feel rather inadequate because neither in 2005 nor last week was there anything going on in my life that was so important that I needed to be in continuous contact. Fact is, I could have left my cell phone in the room, and it would not have made a big difference. There was one time when the phone beeped. I am so desperate for text messages that, during basketball season, I signed up for the Hornets game updates, so I am on the team’s list. While my colleagues were texting their peers, I was no doubt the only one in Providence who got a message from the NBA announcing that the Hornets had selected a new coach. Maybe during the break I could have pretended to be calling the coach on my cell phone to offer congratulations.
Technologically I will admit that I am up to maybe 2006. I have urged a global technological moratorium of perhaps four years so that the rest of us could have a chance to catch up. So far my movement has no known supporters, but once it gets on Wikipedia, it may catch on.
Meanwhile, I am worried that with so many people sending messages back and forth that there is something going on that I don’t know about. Please, somebody, let me in. Besides, it is still four months before basketball season starts again.
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