Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Silent Treatment

On Wednesday afternoon, I sat on a bench in Larchmont village with my friend Jacqueline. It was one of those talks that feel so good to have, one where you can take off your cool with a great person, one you not only haven't had a real talk with in while but you can trust to listen well, be down-to-earth, and always get the joke.

Jacqueline had just come from an audition. She looked cute in a blue dress with blue polka dots, one that made you think of Shirley Temple. Except sexy. And of age.

We got smoothies and found a bench in the sun. The smoothies oozed 500% markup, but the sun felt great.

I was planning on a long bike ride afterwards. In other words, I was wearing spandex. I know what you are thinking and let me make this clear: YES, she still took me- and what I had to say - seriously. Like I said, she is a remarkable, generous woman.

I have to concede, unless you are Lance Armstrong or physically on a bicycle, one should never leave the house in Spandex. My own vanity states that I am in great shape and have nothing to apologize for, yet I can't avoid the truth of Spandex: it is really only permissible in very narrow circumstances (see above).

Don't get me started on large women in stretch pants, or those gay dudes at the gym. Eek.

While enjoying the great conversation, the free hot sunshine, and $4.50 cold corporate smoothies, my phone rings. I was aghast at not having set to silent. I have very clear feelings of cellphone etiquette and its simplest expression: turn your phone off while meeting with someone.

On the subject of celphone etiquette in modern life, let's talk about "the message check." There you are talking with someone. Was that a phone not quite ringing but emitting a sort of quieter beep? It isn't yours, so it must be some toolbox next to you who doesn't have the decency to turn theirs off, or maybe they just learned how to use the big-boy potty and don't know anything about manners. It doesn't matter. But it isn't.

You continue talking but next thing you know your conversation partner breaks eye contact while holding the phone, low and tight to your navel feigning concealment, to read a text from someone who is most certainly NOT present and then have their own little private, exclusive moment of reading the message, without sharing, and coming back to the conversation like nothing happened.

At best you might get a cursory "oh, sorry about that" in that "it was great but you had to be there" kind of tone.

Yeah, you're sorry because it wasn't necessary for you to ignore me for 15 seconds in the middle of the time I am spending with You, and now you, you uncivilized, crappy conversation companion, feel like an ass.

Which you should.

Instead of having manners and being here with me, at the drop of a beep you split to Mr. or Ms. "I am not going to bother to even be there I am just going to send you a 3 cent message and f-up your conversation with the person who actually showed up to spend their limited time with you." I f*in hate that.

Despite this emotionally loaded social platform I found myself already guilty of this, in my panic, grasping at my phone in mid-sentence ring, I checked the screen to see who was calling. Without being able to help it ("I am weak! I'm sorry!") I had that moment of consideration, that moment of looking, processing, and considering what to do. THIS IS WRONG. Unless you are a freakin' surgeon and there is an outbreak of appendicitis, turn off your GD phone. Don't think about it, don't look, don't have your moment of pleasure, feeling the hit of joy that you are important enough for someone to be calling you. Come on, we all kind of like it: "who could it be? They want to talk to ME!"

poor Jacqueline, looking all sexy and making me the center of her attention, especially when everyone around thought "What is that very F*able girl doing with a cyclist who is most certainly not Lance Armstrong?"

As it turns out it was a friend of mine calling me because a man with black gloves was pounding on her door and shoving his hand into her mailbox. She wanted me to be on the phone so I could call 911 if he tried to murder her.

As it turns out, it was the mailman, and he wasn't wearing black gloves. He was just black.

Like I said: The call is not that important.

15 years ago cellphones did not exist. We can live without them, and maybe we ought to. Regardless, the idea is not that complicated:

TURN. OFF. YOUR. PHONE.

I am going to go wash my spandex.

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