The Pause That Doesn’t Refresh

We as a species are particularly susceptible to our technologies. Each commonly used technology is associated with a series of behaviors. I am particularly aware of what the smartphone has done—particularly since I have chosen not to adopt this particular technology. (Tiny screens are not kind to my aging eyes.)

I thought I would mention some of the behaviors I have observed, beginning with this basic root behavior:

When using a smartphone, stop everything else you’re doing.

On the roadway, a particularly annoying corollary is the tendency to play with your smartphone when stopped at a traffic signal, yield or stop sign, and to not move until other motorists beep at you.

In the supermarket parking lots in my neighborhood, approximately 30% of the spaces are occupied, not by shoppers, but by smartphone users checking e-mail, FaceBook, or other social media applications. This makes it more difficult to find parking spaces at busy times.

In the aisles of a store, one finds shoppers stopped dead in an aisle while fingering their smartphones. I have to come up behind them and say BEEP BEEP to get them to be aware of their surroundings.

As a corollary of this corollary, you frequently finds smartphone users annoyed to be interrupted in their use of their digital drug. It is as if they now have earned the right to stop dead in their tracks and that people who attempt to “disturb” them in the exercise of this right are being rude.

I am reminded of the bad old days when half the population smoked most of the time. It was inevitable that when I sat at a restaurant counter, a human chimney would sit next to me burning a particularly foul rope. That, too, was a right that was assumed. Fortunately, no more.

When I Used To Smoke

My Days as a Smoker Were Short-Lived, but Pungent

When I first came to Southern California at the tail end of 1966, I thought I needed an image makeover. Here I was, a graduate student in the Film Department at UCLA, but after my brain surgery, I still looked like a high-school student, and a freshman at that!

The obvious solution was to take up smoking. Now I didn’t like cigarettes, so I decided to concentrate on pipes and cigars. And I didn’t go in for the sweet-smelling tobaccos. I wanted something that would give people an impression of me.

Unfortunately, the impression I made was of someone who was not afraid of creating a stench. I remember walking into a seminar taught by a professor I didn’t like and populated with students I also didn’t like. For that, I went in for a Bering Imperial cigar, which came in an aluminum tube to hold in the acrid smell. I played with the cigar for a few minutes, then lit the fuse. I was not popular in that class, but I aced it nonetheless.

Death in an Aluminum Tube

Another favorite at that time were Wolf Brothers’ rum-soaked cigars. ’Nuff said.

I also smoked a pipe, but I went in for Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco. It wasn’t cheap, but it make a clear olfactory impression.

My smoking habit lasted for only a few months. The fact of the matter was that I didn’t enjoy it any more than did the people who were on the receiving end of my abortive experiment. Fortunately, I was able to stop smoking before I became addicted to my hand-held instruments of aggression.