This wasn’t the purchase of a 25-cent pack of gum, it was a car. A new car. A new yellow car, which is perhaps, the reason the guy was so glued to his computer screen, but still … okay, maybe yellow cars are hard to find. The fellow behind his sales desk finally found one in Chicago and started pressing buttons, and although buttons and keys are good things I yearned for just a single look into my eyes. I was about to write a check for a car, he was about to make a commission and thus buy new soccer cleats for his kids, so would it have been too much to ask him to simply take his eyes away from his screen for a short moment and look at me? When I pulled into the dealership I thought that surely this would be some time for eye contact. The polo-shirted, glad-handing salesman approached me with his cell phone to his ear and his shaker hand extended to me. I came to buy a car, but he remained on his cell for the first minute or so. This would have been the ideal time to drive down the street, but I just wasn’t thinking. Besides, I’d have to consult my GPS and that would have muffled the point I was trying to make.
I spent a total of perhaps two hours at the dealership that morning, shuffled from one desk to another and in all that 120 minutes of time I may have spent perhaps two minutes looking into the eyes of the people who were about to make me write a healthy check. I wanted to shout,“Would someone please look at me!?”
Perhaps I should simply forget about it and admire the dexterity of the young man on Morton Avenue who can tally up my gas purchase without missing a lick in the handheld game he’s playing, but I’m old fashioned enough to wish for just a little human contact. Hey kid, can you at least look up when you say,“Thank you,”and hand me my receipt? Will your fellow gamers in Oregon and New Jersey forgive you for a few minutes while you try to make a living? My sister-in-law recently encountered one of these game-playing clerks, this time in a medical facility, and as she finished up she said,“I hope you enjoy your game.”The kid was flummoxed, sputtering out,“No, sorry. Can I help you?” Duh, Junior. I’m leaving.
One of the reasons I like County Market is that the checkout gals see you coming as you turn the corner coming out of the fruit juice aisle and greet you with a cheery “Good Morning!”as you make the final lap toward the moving food belt. And although they have to hand scan every purchase then poke a few more buttons, not once have they failed to look me in the eye and wish me well. What I actually wish is that they’d go down the street and teach the kid in the gas station how to look up from his games and join the human race.
Even Norma’s restaurant, that haven of good, old-fashioned ambiance and great food, has become quieter as more and more patrons avoid civilized conversation and instead stick their noses into their cell phones, only to be interrupted when the fried chicken arrives. Then of course they place the phone in a position somewhere between the leg and the thigh (the chicken’s), and keep on with their digital digestion.
Would it be impolite as they put you under for an operation to ask the surgeon if he’ll be checking his phone during the procedure? Is it kosher to peek inside the cockpit of a Boing 767 to see if the pilot will be playing Candy Crush on your flight to Borneo? I mean, I hate to be impolite, but there are still some things in life that can’t survive multi-tasking.
Only once, and it’s still a nightmare for me, I caught one of my theatre students checking his phone while onstage during a rehearsal. His final services were nice and I even did the final prayer.
I recently took advantage of the First Christian Church’s kind offer to walk their air-conditioned hallways to give my cardiovascular a kick in the butt, and I was following a lady down the hallway who chatted on her cell phone for a full three laps around the sanctuary. I was reminded of the Lord telling Joshua to march around Jericho three times blowing his trumpet and if the gal would have still been talking on the seventh lap I was going to leave the building. And in case you wondered, she had a wonderful weekend with her grandkids, her left knee is still bothering her and she needs to pick some things up at ShopKo sometime. If you want to be in the know, go to First Christian. However, I did chuckle every time we passed a banner saying,“Be still and know that I am God.”