Living on a busy street, I get a curb’s-eye view of the world passing by. It can be entertaining and it can be educating, but it’s not always pretty. Too much of that world consists of massive trucks and illegally modified motorcycles. (That’s a whole ‘nother post on its own.)
This week I saw something that deeply saddened me.
A man was walking along the sidewalk with a little boy at his side. The guy, fairly tall and clearly the boy’s father, was taking long strides. Scuffling along with his stick legs taking about two steps for each of his father’s one, the boy might as well not have been there. The adult was preoccupied with his phone, tapping away to save his life.
It would be an easy task to dump on the proliferation of cell phone usage at inappropriate times, from the ridiculous – sitting next to the people you’re communicating with – to the dangerous – can the texting-while-driving drum be beat loud enough? Even people who obsess over their phones often readily admit their addiction. This father and son scene, however, came at the worst possible time for me to simply ignore it.
For reasons that needn’t be mentioned here, I’d recently spent significant time poring over old photo albums. (That’s where we put our photos before they went virtual.) The depth of nostalgia I felt was suffocating as I gazed at pictures of my children, now grown, when they were small, our lives were simple, and love was as easy as water flowing downstream.
Please don’t think I’m living in the past. Now is a great place to be. I have few regrets about those years. My children are all terrific people who I love to spend time with. Still, given the chance, it would be wonderful to spend a lazy afternoon with those little ones, playing catch, running on the beach, reading stories.
Unfortunately, those kids are gone, lost in the endless tide of time.
Back to that guy on my street. His phone will be obsolete in six months. His son will hopefully still be around for many years. His phone is no better off for the time he spent with it.* His son is a different story. To paraphrase the oft-spoken truism, no one ever went to their grave wishing they’d spent more time on the phone. That walk down the street is over. It ain’t never coming back, mister. You missed it.
*There’s always the possibility that the guy was counseling a suicidal friend, talking a non-pilot through an emergency landing of a crowded Boeing 767, or helping to negotiate the release of a soldier from the Taliban, but you and I know he was more likely checking hockey scores or texting a friend who was driving.