Hang Up the Phone!

Put your phone down and pay attention, life is passing us by every second we choose not to. Maybe there is a new adage brewing for our times... "No one on their deathbed ever said, 'Gee, I wish I'd spent more time on my cell phone.'"
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Let's recap shall we? We seem to have forgotten not only proper etiquette when it comes to cell phones and all other devices but the law as well. Have we forgotten that it is illegal to hold a cell phone in your hand and talk on the phone while you are driving? Well maybe not everybody, but definitely the guy I saw yesterday driving his mid-life crisis Porche for miles along tricky Sunset Boulevard, holding his cell phone up to his ear, talking loudly the whole way (it couldn't possible have been a stick shift, right?). Point is I see far too many people driving while holding their cell phones boldly to their ears blabbing away as if there wasn't a law against it, as if it were completely acceptable. What is the matter with people, with all of us? Why do we forget the cost?

And while we're on the subject, it's also illegal to text while you are driving. Remember? But more importantly, it's really, really stupid. Why do we keep doing it? I know my excuse -- I don't do it while I'm driving, except at stoplights. I convince myself that I can handle this. But I am delusional. I should never ever have my phone in my hand while I am behind the wheel... period. None of us should. Every time I hear of an accident lately, especially one where they careen into another lane or hit someone in a marked crosswalk, I wonder: They must have been texting. And I make a silent promise to myself to never even have my phone where I can reach it when I am driving, which I break the very next day justifying it to myself, "Surely I can read a text while I'm stopped at the light, right?" Wrong. Is there really anything that can't wait until I get to where I am going? Or if it is incredibly important isn't it worth it to pull over for a couple of minutes -- seconds sometimes -- to deal with it?

We all talk about regrets at some point in our life, sometimes in therapy or in our deepest of conversations, sometimes only unspoken in parts we can't even seem to reach. They are the worst, they can be tormenting but none more so than hurting another human being or yourself by doing something you knew you shouldn't have been doing. Our intuition warned us again and again that talking or texting on our phone while we drive is dangerous, illegal and very un-evolved, but we ignored it because we are unhealthfully addicted to our phones and can't let them go for even the time it takes to drive from one place to another. OK, so maybe we have bluetooth so talking isn't an issue but texting tempts us; oh baby does it call to us, with every ping and strum it compels us to look, to answer... but at what cost?

And finally, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't mention how sad it is that we can't NOT interact with our phones for the length of time it takes to eat lunch. Or dinner. We carry them in our hands as if they belong there, when we are called into our doctor's appointments, when we walk to get coffee (even when we are with a friend we have every intention to catch up with), when we go to the bathroom. One look won't hurt, right? A glance, a glimpse, but then you're hooked, something demands an answer or captures your attention -- it'll only take a moment, right? And so it goes. Lately I've been keenly aware of going to lunch or dinner with friends or family where one or more people lay their phones on the table right next to them. Face up. Beckoning them throughout the meal is the familiar voice, the well-known sounds, of their constant companion.

Listen up, folks: Having your phone "next to you" while you are socializing and interacting with people you care about is not the same thing as having your phone turned off or on vibrate in your purse or in your pocket. Oh, but wait a minute boys (mostly) I've seen some of you feel it vibrate in your pocket and you can't help it but excuse yourself and while you're in the loo you just have to take a little peek. Who was it? Maybe it was important, or maybe it's just a natural reflex at this point. Like breathing or blinking. It is a sad situation. We often miss words, bits and pieces of conversation, nuances in the face or the eyes of those we care about because we, every now and again, look down at our phones, just to check. We can no longer help ourselves. I'm talking to my 23-year-old, to my friends, my family, truth is, I'm talking to myself. We are all missing out. Being a good, focused listener is a great trait and nurtures our relationships more than we can imagine. You can't be a good listener with your cell phone next to you capturing your attention from time to time. We all know what it is like to be trying to communicate with someone who is distracted or just not totally present. It doesn't feel good. It's funny, recently I've been putting my phone away at all meals, unable to hear it or "feel" it and it's made me uber-sensitive to everyone who doesn't. Just that one act shows me how unimportant it makes me feel. There have been times when I haven't been able to capture my daughter's attention for more than a few seconds. Ouch. I worry about their generation. I worry about all of us. We know better, but we're not doing better. Put your phone down and pay attention, life is passing us by every second we choose not to. Maybe there is a new adage brewing for our times... "No one on their deathbed ever said, 'Gee, I wish I'd spent more time on my cell phone.'"

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