Monthly Archives: March 2012

Lessons in Civility: Being Smart and Polite with Smartphones

This morning on my walk, my friends and I talked about a problem that a lot of us are facing. You are sitting with your family, and all heads are down. Adults and children of every age are texting, tweeting, playing games, facebooking or are otherwise engaged with an electronic device instead of the people they are with.

“I hate it when my kids are checking their e-mails or texting with someone else when I finally get some time to be with them,” I said.

“I know how you feel,” Julie said. “It makes you feel non-existent.”

“I read an article that said kids aren’t learning how to interact with the other people,” Marci said. “Their social skills are non-existent.”

“I think that using your phone has become almost sub-conscious,” Robin said. “I have friends that when they go out to dinner, everyone has to put their phone in the center of the table. The first one who reaches for their phone has to pick up the check.”

We all laughed at that.

“We got a really funny Christmas card this year,” I put in. “It was a picture of our cousin’s family sitting around the dinner table. Everyone was on a phone. The message was: texting you season’s greetings,” I said.

We all laughed again.

“We were just with our niece and nephew who have a seventeen-month-old. The baby had an iPad and could use it,” Marci said.

I shook my head. “That’s amazing. Toddlers have to be a lot smarter than we think. I mean, you have to have some reading skills—at least be able to recognize symbols—to be able to do that.”

“But is it healthy?” Julie asked. “I mean, there’s radiation coming from all this stuff.”

“And it’s an addiction. People spend hours playing games and talking and texting,” Robin said.

“Maybe that’s why productivity is down in the United States. It’s a Communist plot. Maybe all these years there have been sleeper cells planning the demise of America, and one of them invented these devices and the Internet,” I said.

My walking buddies all looked at me as if I were crazy. “It’s the writer in her,” Julie said. “Let’s forgive her.”

We continued on our walk and with the conversation.

“Pretty soon people won’t communicate with each other at all,” Marci said.

“But in some ways, we communicate more,” I said. “If you think about it, we now carry a phone with us where ever we go. And that phone has a camera. So not only are we in constant communication, we take pictures where we never would before. My daughter and daughter-in-law text me photos of the kids almost everyday. Or if we see something interesting we’ll snap a quick shot and text it to each other.”

I sent this photo to my daughter-in-law. We'd been talking about how the men leave just enough Coke or juice in a container so that it can spill all over the refrigerator. She wrote back, "Seriously!" We shared a good laugh in minutes.

“And I keep in touch with my nieces and nephews on Facebook. We don’t live in the same cities and they have such busy lives I wouldn’t normally have been able to do that. But on Facebook I can see what they are doing and make a quick comment,” Robin said. “I think we feel closer to each other that way.”

“And I text with my grandkids all the time. I told my grandsons that when they get a text from me that says: THINKING OF YOU, I really mean, I LOVE YOU. I just don’t want to embarrass them if their friends are reading over their shoulder,” I said.

“So maybe it’s not the electronic devices that are in the wrong—it’s the way people use them,” Julie said. “Like the NRA bumper stick: Guns don’t kill. People do. We just need some rules of how and when to use them.”

Somehow my mind created a picture of an iPhone being blown to smithereens, but I quickly pushed it away.

“What a great idea. We just need Smartphone etiquette guides,” I said.

“Yes! We all jumped in using these great devices without thinking there should be some rules about it,” Robin said.

“It wouldn’t have to be too many rules. Just a few to maintain civility,” Marci said.

By then we’d almost completed our circuit and were ready to go on our separate ways. Again we’d aired a popular topic and had set forth many opinions. Then we’d come up with what was needed.

If only we were in charge of the world, I thought. We could solve anything.

Crystal Clear on Seniors

Shame on you, Billy Crystal! Your tasteless and unnecessary joke at the expense of a segment of the population was uncalled for.

No, I’m not talking about the bit with you dressed as the great Sammy Davis, JR in the Midnight in Paris sequence. That was pretty clever and well done. I’m not even talking about the stupid joke that was cynical and mean about a hugging a black woman after watching The Help. That one made no sense and wasn’t funny. (Take my advice and leave African American zingers to someone like Chris Rock. People are way too touchy these days.)

What I am referring to is the throw away line about Christopher Plummer. In a L.A. Times informal poll, 16.98 % agreed with me that making fun of Captain Von Trapp’s age, saying he might wander off during the show, was Billy’s lamest joke. How stupid and uninformed about senior citizens was that? I loved it when Christopher Plummer bounded up the steps to accept his award and gave an articulate and beautifully delivered acceptance speech, as well.

On the other hand, I thought Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer looked old for 82. These guys must have lived hard. They looked older than some of the people I just did a Writers Workshop with in Seattle who were all in their mid to late nineties. I’m guessing the Seattleites didn’t do as much partying as the Hollywood set.

I want to let you in on a little truth: 80 is not old. I have many friends who are in their eighties and look like what Hollywood portrays as sixtyish. My friends have as much vitality as I do, as much joie de vivre. Not that some don’t have a few physical issues, but who doesn’t? It comes with the territory. “Getting old is not for sissies,” as Bette Davis said. Of course, in Hollywood, old is probably considered to be 40. Fifty, just ask Demi Moore, is ancient. Sixty? Forget about it!!

Which brings us back to Billy Crystal, who will be 64 this month. You’re almost a Medicare Citizen, Billy—get over yourself! You are not the youthful sprite that you once were—Harry met Sally almost 25 years ago. And Billy, you don’t look healthy, either. The dyed black hair made you look pallid. And your face was so puffy you looked like you were on cortisone or prostate hormone therapy. I don’t believe as some are saying that your round punim came from Botox and fillers. But something’s up.

To be fair, Billy was not alone in his ageist prejudice. From The New York Times: “The whole night looked like an AARP pep rally, starting with an introduction by Morgan Freeman, who was followed by Billy Crystal.” Wow, if they had made an allusion to Morgan’s race or Billy’s religion, the Political Correctness Police would have been issuing tickets right and left.

I didn’t find much written about the fact that many of the Oscars winners were older. And that they won the old fashioned way: they earned them through superior work. The younger generation has a hard act to follow.