It hit me standing in line at Costco last week.
Rip Van Winkle waking up today after a 20-year snooze would probably end up running to get a bottle of sleeping pills. Interacting with strangers in public has become a lost art.
I like technology as much as the next guy, but it’s gotten out-of-control when it is the norm and not the exception for people to be talking on a cell phone or texting in public.
There were 20 folks out of perhaps twice that many doing just that while waiting at the checkouts at Costco.
I get that standing in line can be boring. But on the flip side it seemed like while a lot of people were talking or communicating they weren’t doing it with people standing next to them. As far as making eye contact, unless someone was on Skype it wasn’t happening.
There was a young lady two lines over who was talking loud enough that you could hear her end of a cell phone conversation.
Some in the technology generation apparently still haven’t figured out how to use the volume control button.
Striking up a polite short conversation with someone standing next to you used to be commonplace while waiting in line. It was a pleasant way to pass the time.
Now it would seem rude to interrupt someone on the phone or furiously texting someone.
There was a time when customers would complain to each other about slow lines. Now they tell everybody else in the world their beef via Twitter.
After checking out, I noticed there were few people in the food court pursing the dying tradition of people watching while they were taking a break. Again, there were more than a splattering of stooped necks and flying fingers.
At one point walking for the exit a lady in front of me had to stop to avoid her shopping cart hitting a young adult who was doing zombie texting — walking aimlessly while engaged in finger talk.
The phone talk died down a bit outside although there were still a few using their cells including two different drivers as they were backing out of parking spaces.
To be honest, the Costco experience wasn’t unusual. It’s pretty normal. We’ve grown to accept texting and cell phone calls taking place virtually everywhere you go.
Earlier in the week a 30-something lady standing in line at a convenience store complained to an acquaintance that a guy she was dating kept checking game scores while they were dining. She told her friend it was rude. Then she proceeded to take a phone call just as the clerk was ready to help her.
My favorite cell phone encounter of all times was when I was jogging down Woodward Avenue perhaps nine years ago. As I neared Bridewell Avenue there was a guy on the sidewalk bouncing back and forth on his feet, swinging his arms in a wild manner and talking in a loud voice.
I started thinking about how I could make evasive moves if I had to when passing him but then I was able to make sense of his rantings. I had forgotten I was living in the Bluetooth Age. He was having a fight with his girlfriend. On the bright side he wasn’t having a slugfest via texting.
We’ve become a society that’s the high tech version of The Tower of Babel where everybody is talking via tongue or texting but less of us are communicating face-to-face with people even if they are standing or sitting right in front of us.
What we accept as OK in public would stun someone from 1997 who suddenly wakes up in 2017.
But unlike Rip Van Winkle who had people he could run up to and talk to in a bid to try and understand what is going on, such a person would be hard pressed to find anyone today to help them get a clue. It’s because they are all too busy texting or yakking on cell phones.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.