I had a couple of free hours at Chicago O’Hare on my way back from Arizona a few days ago, and decided to put the time to good use.
I counted how many people at the airport were either on their phones or their computers.
Among those sitting down, it was almost exactly half. Among those walking, about one in eight were on their phones.
Compare that to ten years ago, or better yet, twenty years ago. No comparison. Twenty years ago, virtually all of us were calling on pay phones; ten years ago, most of us still relied on pay phones. I don’t know if those banks of pay phones even exist at most airports these days.
I’m one of those who’s been critical of the cell phone and computer age, simply because so many of us (in particular, the younger generation) are substituting time with an electronic implement for actual face-to-face encounters and conversations.
Have you ever seen someone busily engaged in a phone coversation arrive at a social occasion and proceed to ignore the people at the party? And worse yet, stay on the phone or make other calls while the party continues? Incredibly rude.
My feeling is, if that conversation with that person is so important, go see that person or at the very least, leave the other people whom you’re ignoring so they don’t have to listen to your one-sided phone conversation.
But these people at the airport with their phones and computers? That’s different. For most of us, time waiting at the airport is lost time, wasted time, so if you can actually put that time to use with communication, work, or even entertainment, you’re better off. For this, I salute our new, revolutionary, omnipresent technology.
As for me, however, I was the guy sprawled out in a chair in the corner, alternately reading the New York Times and a paperback book, while sipping my Starbucks latte. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.