Monday, June 20, 2005

Monday Has Begun

I have a long list--several lists, actually--of stuff to do before we go. I'll get to that shortly, but first I wanted to make a few notes about community, and not just the place you live, but the way you live.

Everywhere I go, I see people clutching cell phones to their ears. On one hand, I celebrate this development because it promotes eavesdropping. People speak out loud into their palms, not realizing or not caring that everyone in a twelve foot radius can hear them. Just yesterday, the woman at the table next to me at the pool talked on her cell phone for half an hour. The children splashed and played while her husband tended to the marinaded chicken on the grill and she chatted.

The other afternoon at the nearby new park, I trailed behind Babygirl and encountered two adults sitting on either end of a park bench, speaking into their cell phones. In another era, those two might have visited or exchanged pleasantries, at least. No more.

Now, whenever you are faced with a situation in which you might meet a neighbor, that neighbor is probably on the phone. Gone are the days in which you sought to make connections with those physically closest to you. We are all connected, but we are not connected to our next-door neighbor, those who live on our street or even those in our town.

I wonder about this lack of connection to those in close proximity to us. Instead of being forced to find common ground with and tolerance for those within spitting distance, we can just phone a friend.

We've never been so in touch and so isolated at the same time.

[DaycareKid arrived at 7:30 a.m. In fifteen minutes, I've wiped his nose three times. He's whining that, "I'm sick," whine. Oh joy. I want to spray him with disinfectant and put him in the storage room. I do not want my own children to be sick during our trip. I'm short on compassion this morning. (Someone has just pointed out to me that I have bemoaned the state of community and then when a real live human being enters my house with a snotty nose, I want to isolate him. Point well taken. I really don't want my own kids to get sick right before we embark on our trip. We can commune with the germ-laden when we return.)

7 Comments:

Blogger Julana said...

Mel,
It sounds so funny to hear you bewailing isolation, then a human shows up with a cold, and you want to stick him in the storeroom. :-)

But I know what you mean. I've been through that too, in early intervention.
Also, I'm afraid blogging may have some of the same pitfalls as the cell phone.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Yeah...back in the day you would have exchanged insincere pleasantries and then when the person went away you?d go on about what a derf s/he was.

These days people connect with who they want to connect with. Time is not something to waste so why talk to someone on a bench you don?t give two shakes about when you can be talking to someone you do care about?

If the answer is to expand your personal horizons by meeting new people for 10 minutes at a time and then never seeing them again, well, there are plenty of ways to do that.

Do you really feel isolated? You?ve met people via your blog. People who are interested in what you have to say and vice versa as opposed to some bag lady on a bench who you can have a fun filled conversation with about the weather and Michael Jackson and that?s about it.

As for neighbors?can?t live with ?em, can?t shoot ?em.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Elizabeth: I just finished reading "Jayber Crow" by Wendell Berry, which is about a barber in a small community in Kentucky. It made me think about community.

The idea of community cuts both ways--as you say, "can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em" . . . but on the other hand, wouldn't we (society as a whole) be better served if we knew our actual neighbors? Wouldn't it be better for our children and those on the fringes of society if we felt more responsibility for our neighbors? It will never happen, not with technology and with the attitude that we can and should just find those who we connect with comfortably.

I personally don't really feel isolated (I'm an introvert--that's my dream!) . . . I was speaking in generalities about the idea of connectedness and how we are more connected than ever, even while sometimes we don't even know the names of the people who live on our street.

I also think about how not-in-the-moment so many of us are, like the lady at the pool. I am guilty of being someplace with my body and someplace else with my head and think I need to practice being mindful of the moment more often. Cell phones help people not be where they are. Good? Sure. Bad? Maybe.

10:39 AM  
Blogger cathy6150 said...

I love reading your blog Mel, It is time for me to put my two cents in.
I love the fact that my daughters have cell Phones. They both use puplic transit,and work evenings. I know that the cell phone offers them a bit of comfort as they walk home. They call me and chat along the walk,or one of their friends. I have also seen other young ladies walking at night an chattin on the phone.
I dont really mind the phones. ( I do not own one ) What bugs me most is when I am in a store,waiting to be served and the customer service person is gossiping on the phone, and avoiding me.

Mel I pray that no germs go on your holliday with you. I would have isolated daycarekid too.
Have a great time. YOU will be missed.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Lora said...

I went to my hairdresser the other day and a women was actually talking on her cell phone as her hairdresser was doing her hair.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Eyes said...

I do think this is the most isolating time in our history. While I don't see my neighbors, I don't hear them on their cell phones -- thankfully. I do hear them :)

But I AM sick of seeing people everywhere having these conversations. It's ridiculous if you ask me!!

I hate it most when I see a couple out to dinner and the husband is yacking away and the wife just sits there. I want to clonk her over the head and say "Find a new guy!!!"

7:24 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

After all the years I worked in retail I jump whenever I hear someone say "Hello." With the advent of cell phones and everyone having one I jump a lot. I agree with you.... e-mail, blogging, cell phones... there is no community any more. There are no more Mayberry's.

5:14 PM  

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