Personal Writings

             Washington     I could say that I’m working remotely, but truth to tell, I’m in a refurbished concourse at Washington’s National Airport, now named after Ronald Reagan.  I’ve got some hours to work here this morning, having flown out of Little Rock at 6:00 AM.  My meeting this morning was canceled with people from CASA, the giant immigrant rights and services organization, because of the container ship crash into Baltimore’s Key Bridge.  Six-night shift construction workers – all immigrants – were working on the bridge and couldn’t be contacted before the crash.  With centers all around metro DC and Baltimore, these men are the core constituency for Gustavo Torres and CASA, and he is all over the news talking about the tragedy.

Work here.  Work there.  It’s all work, and the new National makes it easier with free, high-speed internet and work tables all around, complete with charging plugs.  I’m pretty much invisible, though.  The reason lies in the modern ubiquity of cell phones.  Of the twenty-odd people sitting around me within eyeshot, at least 15 are engrossed in their cell phones.  This phenomenon is not restricted to the young.  Sure, there are some student-types lingering here while waiting for their flights to spring break somewhere.  An older Mennonite woman with the skullcap and long dress is watching her phone.  An African-American woman ten feet away burst into laughter at some video she was watching, that from this distance looked like it was maybe chickens dancing.  Three of the four women sitting in the table behind me are talking to each other and looking at their phone at the same time.  Perhaps miraculously, three people are reading books, including one hardback.  Whoops, one of my readers just closed his book and nodded off.

What happened to people watching?  Dancing chickens and roving bands of marauders could be running down the concourse only feet away from us and none of my fellow travelers would have a clue what was up, where they came from, or where they were going, oblivious to the questions from security or farmers.  The young woman down the table from me just groped around her computer and tablet, clearly looking for her phone, which she then quickly found in her lap.  You see what I mean.

How do we learn from and about others and our community, if we all have our eyes glued to our phones?  Am I a techno-peasant, or just a fuddy-duddy?  I’m not sure, but how can this be a good thing?

Walking on the concourses of airports around the world, I’ve found, is like traversing a new kind of gauntlet.  Moving quickly to catch a connection, I’ve almost run over people who go into low gear or stop completely without any rear lights to look at their phones in the middle of the river of people.  Often, I have to maneuver out of the way of oncoming pedestrian traffic when someone is careening towards me with no clue about anything other than what they are examining on their phones.  The number of traffic accidents of all varieties that are now ascribed to texting and phones is huge.  I dread the day, though I’ll likely not see it, when self-propelled vehicles dominate the roads, since their listless drivers will undoubtedly have their eyes glazed on their phones.

Looking out the window, the rain seems to have stopped, and the fog is clearing.  Don’t tell.  I may be one of the few who noticed, unless someone happened to be checking the weather on their phone.