Friday, August 20, 2010

Stop the Insanity

I needed to go to the bank to cash a check and get laundry quarters.

So this morning, shortly after the bank by my work opened, I headed over to take care of my business.

As I was walking in and even as I was waiting for the next available teller, I was distracted, digging in my purse for my checkbook and ID, thinking about what was on my list of things to accomplish today.

The teller who assisted me was friendly. It took only a few moments for us to conduct our business so that I could be on my way. But I do remember she smiled warmly and thanked me for my business.

As I walked out into the parking lot, still distracted with now putting my wallet away, 5 Arapahoe Country Sheriff patrol cars swarmed the lot.


I half expected them all to leap from their vehicles with drawn guns, shouting for me to put my hands in the air.


A bank employee emerged - his name is John - he assisted me when I needed to exchange foreign currency - and I heard him tell one of the officers, "Everything is just fine".

I couldn't hear the rest of the conversation so I don't know what happened.

I hypothesize that someone accidentally triggered the silent alarm.

But it got me to thinking...

That's how it happens.

One minute we're going about our business...yapping at each other on our cell phones, texting, digging around in over-large pocketbooks for whatever it is we're hunting for...and BOOM!

We're hearing this:

That's more than a little disturbing.

Because I was distracted, not paying attention, I could have walked in on a highly volatile situation in which my life would have been in peril.

I imagined myself walking through the door of the bank, digging in my pocketbook, and having a gun thrust to my head...or worse, a bullet tearing through me and having no idea what was happening because I was too busy living in my own personal bubble.

I do it all the time.

Most of us do.

Have you ever driven somewhere and all of a sudden realized you had no idea how you arrived at your destination - literally no recall of the journey?

Often, particularly first thing in the morning as I'm headed toward work, and usually on the same stretch of University from the light at Speer to about Ohio, I realize I have absolutely no recollection of driving. I'll remember vaguely sitting at the light at Speer1 and can't remember anything else after that until I come to and realize I've been on autopilot for several minutes, listening to my music, thinking about the day ahead, planning what I'll fix for dinner or wear to an event.

And it hit me. We're on autopilot most of the time...especially when we're out in a public situation. Isolated, encapsulated in our own little blissfully ignorant bubbles - only concerned with what we're having for supper2.

The only thing that's capable of bursting that bubble is tragedy. An accident, a bullet.

I was struck again by the same thought this afternoon as I inched my way through the brutal Friday afternoon traffic.

When did we stop paying attention? When did we stop caring about what was happening around us and only giving a rat's ass about what was happening inside our cars?

I've long held the belief that technology - as wonderful as it is, as much as I embrace and love it - is fast becoming the downfall of society. We no longer know how to interact with one another, how to be courteous, how to pay attention to what's happening right in front of our faces...

Because we're plugged something virtual. That doesn't actually exist outside of our computer screens and smartphones.

We've forgotten what it is to interact with each other outside of anonymous postings on websites.

We cannot function without "Like" buttons. We clamor for "Dislike" buttons.

We abbreviate our sentences to read like a song title from a Prince album circa 1984.

WTF, people?

We are rarely forced to interact with one another beyond work and internet. We can order our groceries online and have them delivered, for heaven's sake.

We are losing valuable skills as we live Second Lives or live our first lives3 in oblivion - foregoing common sense for selfish pursuits.

Emily Post is obsolete...isn't she?

Do we even know who that is anymore?

This terrifies me. That we will become so isolated - living in our own heads where everything is clearly "all about me", that we'll forget how to be courteous, how to survive in a world populated with many different personalities of which we each have no control of "hiding" when we don't like what they have to say or do - that we will no longer be able to function beyond the computer screen in front of us.



Socially retarded.

Let's just stop it.

Before it becomes the death of us all.

1: I've never hit that light on green as long as I've lived at The Grotto. Never.

2: Steak. It's what's for dinner.

3: Whether this is your primary life is up to you.


Matt said...

Hey, Jane! I don't have a decent copy of Pants. Do you have an mp3 version around you could email to me, or put it up somewhere so I can download it? That'd be awesome. Thanks!

As to "When did we stop paying attention? When did we stop caring about what was happening around us and only giving a rat's ass about what was happening inside our cars?", I think that happened about the time the car was invented. Cars do that to people. But now people need the cars to get places, due to lack of alternatives like mass transit and walkable cities. So rat's ass it is, until something drastic happens.

tc said...

Some people make an effort to be aware of what is going on around them. Part of this is what happens if you consider the "worst case" a lot.

I also end up with random people giving me life stories. All it takes is to show a little interest.