Is anybody alive in there?

Originally published on Tumblr, October 2013.

I was at the grocery store tonight and I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Everywhere I turned, there were people talking on their cell phones. These were not teeny-boppers with their OMGs and LOLs. These were not teenagers who were talking to their heartthrobs. These cell phone junkies were middle aged folks like me. They were products of the 70s and 80s who weren’t RAISED with the cell phone appendage! These people tonight were so disconnected with their environments that they had no idea what was going on around them. The cell phone zombification has struck my generation…

One woman had me blocked in behind the apples. I gently said, “Excuse me!”

She didn’t turn around or even flinch. She was completely involved in her conversation. Before I said it louder, I looked her over. She was tall and thin. She appeared to be older than me- perhaps mid-50s. Her attire was dated, like an 80s business lady. I again said, a bit louder, “Excuse me?”  I saw a guy to my right chuckle. Still nothing. I was feeling trapped and anxious.  I leaned around my buggy and swung my arm in the air- right where she should have seen it, and she still didn’t move. I had no choice but to bump her ever so slightly with my shopping cart. I instantly felt guilty, and thought to myself, “Maybe she’s deaf?” But then I remembered, she was talking on the cell phone.  She finally turned, after my bumper cart nailed her softly on the behind. She looked irritated and inched over… just barely. I squeaked past her and she kept talking.

Now, I have to add that I am on a pretty strong steroid inhaler for some wheezy bronchial stuff today, so I am a bit jittery. But as I left the veggie talker and moved toward the meats, I passed another mobile phone talker who was in an angry conversation with his significant someone. He was so embittered by his exchange that I honestly don’t think that he remembered where he was. I heard him say, “I can’t believe you are saying that to me. You don’t even LISTEN! No!  I am SICK of this!”

He was holding his cell phone on his shoulder as he spoke loudly in to it, holding his cart with one hand, and roughly rifling through the pork chop packages with his other hand. He looked to be about 45. His clothes spoke a different message than his phone voice- his clothes were laid back, tan shorts, a white, well-washed, Nike t-shirt, and uncombed hair. This was a misnomer. He was not laid back. He was mad. I veered away from the meats, as I suddenly realized he could totally lose it. He could start throwing ribs. I had kids to raise. We would just have to go without meat this week. It was probably healthier anyway.

As I turned up the next aisle, a huge man in all black was leaning against the Little Debbie shelf updating his Facebook status. A mother further down was pushing her buggy down the aisle. Her two kids were yelling, and trying to climb out of the buggy. She bopped them on the heads with a package of rice cakes and shushed them. She told the person on the other line how terrible her kids were acting. In the freezer section a 30-something woman was complaining into the phone about how cold it was. She was wearing a slinky tank top and cut offs. In her buggy she had a 12 pack of Molsen Golden and a box of corn dogs.

I have never had such an overwhelming sense of cell phone overload. Ever. And I teach high school kids. I see them on their phones. Regularly. For some reason it seems normal for the teenagers to be consumed with their phones. They are like pacifiers for them. But I realized tonight, that adults who are tuned out to the world and on their phones in public causes me a different stress. If the kids aren’t paying attention, and now their parents aren’t paying attention… is ANYONE paying attention to the world anymore?

-H.C.

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