When we just looked at things

As Jenni and I were driving to the store today, I glanced in my rear view mirror. I was slowing down for a red light and I noticed that even before we got there, the driver behind us was already looking down at her phone, while still rolling to a stop.

It seems like everywhere I drive these days, so many of the other drivers are looking down at their phones. The ones that are doing it while driving are scary enough, but to me the ones who can’t quite wait for the red light to check their phone are almost as troubling.

I’m going to sound like I hiked up my old person pants to my chin here, but what is everyone always doing on their phones? There may be some rare instances where someone is desperately trying to reach a loved one to pick them up or some kind of emergency. Other than that, I can’t imagine what’s so important that it can’t wait until they’re at their destination.

[End fist-shaking old person rant]

When I used to fly a lot for work, I savored the hours after they closed the doors. For a few hours, I was unreachable. My only world existed inside a big metal tube 40,000 feet in the air. I read. I listened to music. I ate. I looked out the window, mostly. It was a chance to not be on.

Remember driving in the backseat of a car as a kid and just looking? Out the window there were fields, stores, construction, tall buildings, and people of all kinds. Or maybe you just contemplated all the things you could fit into the ash tray, or watched a bee try to hang onto the window at 45 mph.

As an adult, I’m really no better than anyone else with a smartphone. I catch myself waiting in line somewhere, snatching up my phone to bide the time. What’s on twitter? Did I get any new emails since I left home? What was the name of the guy on that show with the chimp and the truck?*

It’s so easy to do.

I’m trying to make an effort to go back to just looking around at stuff. Waiting in line is boring. So what? I complain that I never have time to just think, yet here I am with five or more minutes to do exactly that [reaches for phone].

Am I better because I only mindlessly reach for my phone when I’m not in a car? Or is it kind of the same thing?

What if, when we got to a stop light we just… sat? How would the world change if we all just looked at things for a while?

*It was BJ and the Bear.


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