I was at a store the other day, bringing my purchases to the check-out. The woman behind the register was busy discussing her schedule with the manager standing next to her. She continued her conversation while she scanned my items, put them in a bag, pressed some buttons, and handed me the receipt. She continued her conversation as I took the bag and walked out the door. She never looked at me. We never spoke a word.
Surely, we have all commented at some point about the big-brother machine who is, at this very moment, learning everything about us. Recording for unknown purposes, all there is to know — where we shop, how much we spend, what toilet paper we prefer. Technology allows him to know those things by its very nature.
But, have we stopped to think who isn’t knowing us? What conversations we’re not having because of the technology we so readily embrace?
I wonder, often, why we feel the need to be so intravenously connected to our phone, our ipod, our computer, our television. Are we so afraid of our own silence, our own aloneness, that we just can’t unplug?
And I wonder, in the process of staying connected, what are we missing?
The other day, I was walking along a trail that wanders through salt marsh and shoreline. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, cool and bright. An osprey couple soared across the blue sky. The breeze played the marsh grass like song. It was so quiet, a field mouse scurrying nearby interrupted my thoughts, and I stopped to watch him for a while.
And then a woman walked by, cell phone in hand. Her head bent forward watching her feet, she chatted endlessly about her grocery list and her car trouble. Louder, louder, louder…until she passed me and continued on her way. She missed the mouse. She missed me.
I have been blessed by magical conversations, haven’t you? I’ve met best friends. Fallen in love. Been surprised by chance encounters with people I hadn’t known before — and now do. We’re all strangers, really, we’re all alone, until we talk to each other. Until we say hello.
From the archives, while I work on finishing my book. Words and photo, ©2008, Jen Payne.