“Wait, Say That Again, Please…This Damn Little Girl I’m Walking With Keeps Distracting Me…”

Just because it is becoming an “old man shouts at cloud” cliche to point out that electronic devices are encouraging bad habits that will do unpredictable harm to society and human relations in the future doesn’t mean the observation isn’t true, or that it shouldn’t be heeded.

Yesterday, while walking Rugby in a glorious afternoon sun, I found my attention  diverted by the sound of a tiny child’s shout of glee and wonder.  A little girl, resplendent in a pink dress but not yet capable of coherent speech, had seen my happy Jack Russell from across the street and was pointing to him, laughing, and trying to get the attention of her mother as the two walked along in the opposite direction of where we were headed.  I also tried to get the woman’s notice, since my practice is to take Rugby to kids when they exhibit the reactions the little girl was running through.

The mother, however, was fully occupied talking on her cell phone. She never looked up, never saw me, never saw Rugby, or acknowledged her daughter. She just snatched the girl’s hand—the little girl had been previously hustling to keep up with her—and pulled her past us as the toddler looked longingly behind, and Rugby wagged his tail. Of course, she never interrupted the call, which I’m certain was crucial to world peace.

I see this all the time, more and more frequently: parents spending “quality time” with their children by having the kids walk along side of them (or behind), almost completely ignored, while they give most of their attention to chatting or texting to some distant friend or associate. The behavioreven bothers me when it is a dog rather than a child who being ignored, but dogs recover from neglect, emotional and otherwise, a lot better than children.

That woman, I thought, wouldn’t chat away on a phone call if she were walking with an adult companion, and then I instantly erased the idea: I have seen people doing that, too. Recently, waiting for my wife outside of the 7-11, I witnessed the depressing sight of  four teenagers walking along together, saying nothing, all with their eyed fastened to smartphones.

Relating my experience with the mother and the little girl to my wife later, I was firmly chided for not intervening. “You should have shouted, ‘Hey! Pay attention to your daughter! You’re a mother; what the hell’s the matter with you?’ “I was told. “Maybe that would shame the woman into her senses.”

I didn’t think the incident rose to the level that would obligate an ethical person to act through various duties we have discussed on Ethics Alarms, such as the duty to warn, the duty to confront, the duty to try, the duty to protect children, the duty to prevent harm. My wife disagrees. “I think it’s child abuse,” she said.

Well, it’s definitely society abuse. Imagine how those teens and that little girl will raise their kids.

81 thoughts on ““Wait, Say That Again, Please…This Damn Little Girl I’m Walking With Keeps Distracting Me…”

  1. Oh come on Jack, and Mrs. Jack. The mother was simply multi-tasking!

    Have you noticed recently while watching a baseball game broadcast that at least half the fans in the seats behind hoe plate are looking at their phones rather than the action on the field? Why?

    • I belong to a dwindling breed; I don’t own a Boop-Beep-Beep, don’t do social media, and don’t participate in fantasy sports.

      Anywho, remember when “Super Fan,” that goofy shit with the afro & multi-colored tie-dye t-shirt that sat under the basket at games with a mini t.v waiting to be in the picture, was an extreme, one-of-a-kind outlier?

      He is legion!

      It’s the biggest reason Camp Randall (GO BADGERS!!) “invested” ~ $6 million for improved Boop-Beep-Beep reception; for attendees that can’t survive, nay exist, without constant, continuous reel validations from FacePlant, et al, social media.

      It’s created a sea change in the way sports programmers have altered the delivery systems of their content, and how they shoehorn ads into the lives of people with the attention span of a goldfish.

      https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/11/30/nfl-television-ratings-redzone-twitter-snapchat-facebook

      And not only to accommodate social media. The developing theme is “fans” (and I use that reference advisedly) just flit about cluelessly, with their major concern being stats that will affect their fantasy teams; who wants to watch a game, all they need/want are updates.

      Over the last couple of months (double cataract surgery/follow-ups for me, numerous ER visits and appointment trips accompanying my nonagenarian parents) I’ve been thrust into the heath-care milieu like never before.

      One constant? I’m nearly the only one in any waiting room that doesn’t have my face in a screen.

      It’s come full circle, I’m the outlier…

      • I ran into that guy with the rainbow colored faux Afro (or Bozo the Clown) wig once. My wife and I were sitting in the east end zone bleachers of an Orange Bowl Game in the late 1970s. Oklahoma vs. Nebraska, Tom Osborne vs. Barry Switzer, or something like that. You know, Our black guys are better than your black guys. Two red and white teams. (Plus, they were both running option offences so the end zone was the best place to watch from. We could really see the speed involved in that sort of game and how hard it was to defend.) At half time I went down to talk to the guy and find out what he was like and what he was doing, or at least hear what he had to say for himself. I forget how I approached him, maybe just a “Hey, how you doing?” The guy DID NOT ENGAGE. It was obvious he wasn’t there. He looked at me almost alarmed and then turned away to face the field. He could have been getting instructions beamed in from Mars judging by the look in his eyes. Plus he was pretty grimey. Could have been living under the bleachers rather than sitting on them.

        Now I see there’s Marlins guy who sits behind home plate during baseball games all over the league and there’s a Pink Hat guy that sits behind the plate at Wrigley Field. Pretty pathetic.

        • I have long suspected that there was more than one rainbow-Afro white guy at those televised games. Other Bill, you might have met a different cat than the one I remember (but never met or even sat near). Maybe it was always the one and only guy, and he “metamorphosed”…anyway, I recall a guy who always held up a sign with a Bible chapter and verse. I reckon that Bible-citing has been banned for a long time – at least, banned from being shown, by the latter-day controllers-of-the-TV-cameras.

          OB, you were lucky like I wish I had been, to be able to see one of those epic Nebraska-Oklahoma Negro League football games. (Although as I recall, even though many of the top stars were black, Nebraska had a decent share of lily-white athletes on the field, adding to the drama.)

    • They are morons, that’s why. I felt the same way about the fools who had to listen to their transistor radios to hear the play-by-play while they were at the game. Sometimes it was so loud you could hear the broadcast in the park from the thousands of little radios…

      • My Dear 93 year-old Father and I, not to mix sports metaphors, did a bit of an end-around on that.

        At U.W. men’s BB games (GO BADGERS!) at the ancient Field House, we sat right behind the print press/radio announcer row; ~ half a century ago when it was still in the 2nd balcony.

        With pen-n-program my Father would keep score, occasionally peaking over their shoulders to see if his figuring was correct.

      • I guess I would be one of those fools. If I was to go to a Rangers game I would certainly want to listen to Eric Nadel’s broadcast if I could. I think he is just an amazing play by play broadcaster and enhances your experience no end. Certainly if I am watching them on TV, if I can listen to the radio broadcast (properly synchronized), I will do so without hesitation.

        That said, I would certainly be paying attention myself to the action on the field, otherwise why go to the game?

        • I never understood the logic. The great thing about baseball is that there is so much to watch, all over the field, and a fan learns to appreciate the subtleties of the game, which are legion, by exploration and personal observation. Having a voice telling you what another observer thinks is important destroys the best thing about watching a game at the park.

          • But transistor radios were brand new back then, before there were games televised on any day except Saturday. I have fond memories of Dodger stadium with Vin Scully’s voice coming from thousands of radios. That was a time when few broadcasters could describe a game in such a poetic and enthralling voice as Vin’s. In fact practically no one today can really describe a game on radio at all. Oh and as a 2nd Generation Yankee fan from Oklahoma (Mickey!) we’ll put our 26 championships up against any of you. 🙂

            • And the hand-held electronic devices are not only new, but the manufacturers are breeding new versions every year. Nevertheless, I think they may get tired of them some day and turn back to humans (re themselves and company). But I feel for that little girl – and other children I see overlooked and ignored. They remind me of schizophrenic patients off their medication, walking dazed in the street having deluded discussions with voices in their head. At least they’re not allowed to walk around with children.

  2. I think you were correct in not yelling at the lady with the child for multiple reasons, top of the list is in that situation the child was not in any imminent physical danger and the child wasn’t being a danger to others as a result of the lady being inattentive.

    I draw the line at if the child is doing things that are unsafe to themselves/others or unnecessarily disrupting others and what the “parent” is doing is ineffective, that’s when stepping in makes perfect sense.

    • Just recently we saw an example, from Florida, no less, of the down side of advising someone of the wrongness of their behavior. Who thought a shooting death could result from a verbal admonishment regarding handicapped parking. Sometimes its best to do what Jack did: take notice but just “keep on truckin'”.

        • P.S. I think shooting the guy who pushed him to the ground was way overboard, the guy that pushed him just stood there after he pushed him, it didn’t appear that he was not continuing to assault him in anyway after the initial push. I know the guy on the ground felt afraid, but geeze, his assailant had already stopped it’s not like he was following him to the ground to beat him to death. I think it’s interesting how the Florida “stand your ground” law was used in this particular case, I think it will enable others to feel justified in using their firearms when someone does nothing but push them.

          • That tape is pretty damning of the guy on the ground.

            The duty to confront needs to be tempered with some sense of knowing when you’ve done all you can do. It’s obvious the woman was not going to move her car out of the handicapped space to the other spaces that were open and closer to the front door (for God’s sake). He needed to just have his say and leave it at that. There was nothing more for him to do. He couldn’t arrest her or have the car towed. He could have gone Gomer on the woman, I suppose.

            • Could he have called the police for the parking violation? Not sure they would have come.

              Agree that the guy should have left well enough alone, but that does not mean he was responsible for being attacked.

              If he is charged, it will be for political reasons.

              • What? No way he should have left “well enough alone.” He was right to confront the woman, 100%. The man who pushed him committed a crime. The only question is whether the gun was excessive force. If his assailant looked of sounded as if he was going to continue the attack, then the shooting was self-defense, as in Zimmerman-Martin. Otherwise, it’s manslaughter.

                I once wrote an appeal brief for a convict on similar facts. The law is clear, and it has nothing to do with “stand your ground.” It has to do with the “You don’t have to let yourself be beat up before you can use deadly force” principle.

                • Jack, the first thing you learn when training to carry a gun is to walk away from confrontation. Getting worked up is a bad idea when you are armed (well, any time is not good, but the heat of passion and firearms are a bad combination).

                  The dude knew he was packing, and started the confrontation. Ethically this was a poor choice, in my opinion. Concealed Carry is for defense. Starting out the way he did… I know, he still was not responsible for being attacked, but he put himself in that situation unnecessarily.

                  Better to take pictures, involve the parking lot owners, or whoever. Yelling at a woman with kids in the car reveals a poor judgement, when one is armed.

                  • Separate issue, but a good one. Don’t confront with a chip on your shoulder and a gun in your pocket.

                    That is EXACTLY the Zimmerman scenario. However, again, that’s the issue of whether someone who can’t control himself under stress should carry a gun.

                    • whether someone who can’t control himself under stress should carry a gun.

                      Problem is that one has to be adult enough, and self aware enough, to recognize the character flaw and still decide to not carry a gun.

                      I may (or may not) carry any one of several defensive weapons. Of course, as a self identifying transman lesbian of color I feel the need to protect myself more than most…

              • slickwilly wrote, “If he is charged, it will be for political reasons.”

                That shows terrible prejudice against a prosecutor that you don’t even know anything about, do you really want to go there?

                • Gun owners have come to expect such treatment after the past two decades. DAs in urban areas have to get elected, and thus play to the (usually blue) crowd. I think I can make this observation and be right more often than wrong.

          • We do not know what the aggressor was saying before the trigger was pulled. I can think of a lot of things such a fine upstanding citizen could say that would provoke a lethal response, especially just after physical aggression.

            ” I’m going to get my boys from inside and come back to kill your ass!”

            “I see your pretty little daughter in the car: think I’ll go get me some of that!”

            “I am going to come to your house and kill your family!”

            Given the thug’s behavior, I would have believed him: he obviously intended harm.

            The carry holder was assaulted and battered. His attacker died for being arrogant and stupid. The video likely prevented the arrest of the carry holder, ironically.

            • slickwilly wrote, “The video likely prevented the arrest of the carry holder, ironically.”

              In Florida, maybe, I think it’s a terribly slippery slope.

              Did you see the entire video? As far as I am concerned, the confrontation was over after the push and the aggressor was clearly turning away from the shooter and not advancing towards him and he shot him as he was turning away. If the exact same thing had take place in Wisconsin the concealed carry shooter would be charged. Is it 1st degree murder, definitely not, but it’s certainly some level of aggravated manslaughter.

              I am an outspoken concealed carry advocate and I think the shooter shooting when he did was wrong. Just because you pull a firearm from a concealed carry position does not mean you have to shot it. I don’t have a problem with the shooter pulling the firearm under the conditions that existed but I think the shooter went too far when it was clear to me that the confrontation was over. I’m wondering if the man unknowingly tripped the trigger.

              Like you said, there may have been words spoken that we don’t know about, but we do not shoot people for words.

              We can agree to disagree on this one.

              • This is a terrible case to carry water for. I also wonder if this was an accidental discharge.

                I tend to believe them when someone makes a threat to my life, family, and property, even more so if the person just demonstrated they have a tendency for violent confrontation. In Texas, his words would have mattered, as that speaks to the ‘feared for my life’ decision to pull the trigger.

                Agree that the time it took to pull the trigger makes it look bad. It might even have been manslaughter, but the video exonerates the shooter.

                All I see here is a thug choosing the wrong victim, and becoming an example to other thugs of what can happen. We have a lot of violent crimes committed for petty reasons based in politics, and many feel threatened more quickly than 10 years ago.

                I hate this situation from every side: the children left behind, the older white man who may have made a rash decision out of pain, and the guy who thought he could attack anyone with impunity. A real sick feeling in my gut.

                • slickwilly wrote, “I hate this situation from every side: the children left behind, the older white man who may have made a rash decision out of pain, and the guy who thought he could attack anyone with impunity. A real sick feeling in my gut.”

                  I have that same sick feeling.

                  • And the mother who needlessly parked in the handicapped spot. This situation reminds me a little of some sort of civil analogy to broken windows policing. The woman said she parked there because all the other spaces were full (not true and a rationalization) and she was only there for just a minute or so (another bad rationalization). If people ignore little laws and inconvenience handicapped people, the society is degraded. It’s basic get off my lawn stuff, but not unimportant.

                • I agree that the words may have been important between the attacker and the guy that got pushed. If you watch the video carefully, you will see the attacker hike up his pants and take a step towards the guy on the ground – then begins to turn away when the gun is presented. It looks as though the shot broke before the guy on the ground perceived that the attacker was breaking it off because of the gun. It got outside of his OODA loop.

                  It is also useful to remember that in Florida (where I live) it is illegal to brandish a firearm.

                  My bottom line on that whole event is that the guy that got pushed down does not have the proper mind set to be carrying a gun. You should not be out in public looking for trouble – especially if you are carrying a gun. I also understand that this guy had a bit of a habit of confronting people parking in the handicap spot in this particular parking lot – so he had a history of having the wrong mindset for carrying a gun (in my opinion).

                • Heard about it in the car on my commute this morning.

                  Wanna bet someone is up for election, and this is political kabuki theater?

                  The shooter is pretty much an asshole, stipulated. They will drag his past into this to try to get an emotional conviction, as his propensity for being the parking nazi is apparently well known. I have heard that he brandished his gun on past encounters as well. All fodder for the DA to grandstand to the crowd.

                  Notice how long it took the DA to perform the political calculus to press charges? Stinks like fish on ice.

                  The law is still on the shooter’s side: he was attacked, and if he feared for his life, should walk on the charges.

      • My apologies, Jack. I did not intend to derail the thread, only to point out that seemingly innocent attempts to correct someone’s inconsiderate act might result in some seriously unexpected responses..

        • You wrecked my day, Mike. You also made me THINK, which made the exercise worthwhile.

          I cannot speak for Jack, but on the whole I appreciate the ‘diversion.’

  3. I have a very social dog, and it boggles my mind to see that someone has come to a public park to talk on the phone while deliberately maneuvering a friendly dog away from other friendly dogs. I assume that he or she is performing an assigned chore, and isn’t the dog’s true owner.

      • I hadn’t seen it at the time of your earlier post, though I remember that now. Thinking about it, the themes of duty, betrayal, kindness (and dogs!) may be more relevant to your topic than not.

        On a side note, and possibly imagining more intent than exists, I wondered if the recurring bit about the five dogs voting on a course of action, and always with the same 4 to 1 results might be a sly slap at the idea of pure democracy.

  4. I would not have done anything either. Texans tend to let well enough alone by preference. And I would not have had a leg to stand on as Jack describes the circumstances.

    I have learned that ‘text neck’ is a repetitive motion injury recognized in the medical field. Wonder if insurance pays for treatment?

  5. So I’m going to show myself to be a millenial here, but how does this differ significantly from when we went to the park as kids and mom was ignoring us by reading her book, or dad was ignoring us by listening to the game on his portable radio? How did their ignoring us differ significantly from when our grandmothers took them to the park and told them to go play while ignoring them to talk to other mothers? How did that differ significantly from our great grandmothers telling our grandmothers to go out of the house and “I don’t care as long as you don’t bother me?” I can’t speak to my great grandmother about how she was raised, but I don’t imagine it was much different. There were different ways of distraction, but it seems to me that outside the interactions that parents deemed appropriate, ignoring children is a human condition, not solely a factor of technology.

      • Yes actually, all the time. Playing alone was normal, playing with kids, in my experience, was not. Playing outside, in the fresh air and nature, was the point. Learning how to cope with boredom and learning to be inventive and imaginative was part of the lesson. Playing with others was for school or family get-togethers. I rarely played with other kids as parks were usually not well frequented during the times that my parents took me there. I played on the playground equipment or, when we didn’t go to a park, climbed rocks and wandered through forests alone. This was very similar to my parents’ and grandparents’ experiences.

        • Sarah, I’d say the difference is this mother was walking with her child. Why be absent. Why not engage with other people? Say hello? Set an example for her child? Pay attention to the fact her child (who probably doesn’t have a dog) wants to pet a cute dog? I’d carry my daschund in my arm while shopping at a big resale place where lots of not so well off Hispanic families would shop. Invariably the kids would want to pet the dog I was carrying, sometimes two. I can’t remember a mother not being more than willing to engage with the old man with the dog, ask him if they could pet the dog and enjoy doing so, usually asking for the dogs’ names. Sure, parents aren’t always engaged with their kids, but while they’re walking together? Come on.

    • Don’t you see that having a computer in one’s pocket where one can be connected 24/7 allows parents to ignore their kids more than in times past? That is my take, anyway, based on my life experiences.

      You mileage varies, and your life experiences matter to your opinion. I respect the different point of view.

      • I again am not sure that this is the case. I agree that there are people who are addicted to their smart phones and social media. This is a problem and it does need resolved. However, we parents are also judged harshly now because we let our kids play without constant supervision (though my parents don’t recall any supervision and my grandmother admits to not supervising much at all) while being told that if we constantly supervise, we will destroy our children’s psyches. In addition, it seems that everything gets blamed on these little devices. If I am at the park with a paperback book and my kids are playing, I am a good mother who gives her children a chance to interact with nature and everyone understands that I am taking a mental break while my kids learn that they are not the center of the universe and have to develop self-reliance. If I am at the park with the same dang book in Kindle format, and my kids are playing, I am a horrible mother who neglects her children. I have gotten these accusations enough and seen other mom’s torn apart for similar reasons (solitaire in cards on the picnic table – great, solitaire on the phone – evil) that I wonder why this is the case. In this instance, we do not know why the woman was on the phone. Was it the fortieth phone call of the day used to ignore her daughter, the only short break for herself that she took all day, a medical issue that needed resolved (I used to spend days on the phone for my daughter’s condition), was a friend or relative in need of companionship, or anything else? There are as many, if not more, good reasons as bad. However, the natural assumption now is that if someone is on a phone, they are, by that very action, neglectful to their children, spouses, and/or friends.

          • Because if you are attentive, you are a helicopter parent. You get publicly castigated at parks either way. I think many people still do it because if they are going to be attacked either way, they might as well get a little down time occasionally. Also, since we can see that our parents did it all the time, why can’t we do it occasionally. Perhaps getting out of the house is our only time to not be doing non-stop kid-centered stuff and we need a break. After all, it’s a park and the experts say that a little boredom in the outdoors is healthy. If you are attacked for everything, sometimes you stop caring what other people think, especially if you can’t see anything wrong with it.

            As an example, I have been yelled at as your wife suggested you do to that girl’s mom when in the grocery store for looking at my phone instead of taking care of the fact that my children were trying to undo the belts on the cart. (They were safe, just unhappy to not be running up and down the aisles.) As a note, my grocery list is on my phone and I was trying to remember what else I needed to buy for suppers that week, were we having spinach or green peppers? The next week, when trying to do it without the phone grocery list and being especially attentive to the kids, I was yelled at for not being organized and teaching my children bad grocery shopping habits. If you are a parent, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t for every little thing you try. At some point this constant attacking for every choice we make, whether on social media or publicly in a store, in the park, everywhere we go, inures us to real criticism, and probably exacerbates the unethical issues.

            • I do NOT want to live where you live.

              Where I live, such busy bodies would be told to mind their own business, in colorful graphic terms.

              BITE ME would not begin to touch the language such intrusiveness would deserve.

            • Sarah have you considered that “haters are gonna hate” and you just have to let go of what others think? You sound like you are a good mama…next time someone says something take a deep breath and internally pray or wish for the other person’s calm & well-being. It’s better than being butt hurt.

        • I was not aware that this was the assumption these days. It is not where I live.

          Of course, we allow ‘free range parenting’ a bit more than even other areas in Texas.

        • Sarah B.
          Assumptions aside; in the perspective of society as a whole, is being a little inattentive equivalent to being neglectful, generally speaking I think not.

          In Jack’s case, the lady “snatched the girl’s hand” which shows me she was not being neglectful just mildly inattentive.

    • Studies are showing that the degree of attention paid to a smart phone go beyond the attentiveness required to read a book, or listening to a radio, and that cortical processing while texting causes brainwave patterns previously not seen.
      The constant refreshing of social media pages, and constant notifications of likes, upvotes etc., trigger the same areas of the brain as people pulling slot machine levers. It’s a completely different kind of absorption, and due to the ‘gambling centers’ of the brain firing, much harder to disengage from. This last effect is the cause of the ‘smart phone addiction’ phenomenon of constant phone checking (even to the detriment of conversation with people you’re with), withdrawal symptom-like irritation when unable to access ones’ phone, and sleeping with your phone under your pillow or otherwise on the bed with you, which 71% of teens currently do.. Even having your phone near you causes ‘divided attention’, a state of not being entirely there, involved in what’s in front of you.

      The mother not taking her eyes off the phone, and just reaching for her little girl and pulling her along without even registering her daughter’s communication attempt would indicate to me (and I’ve seen it plenty of times) that she was far into whatever she was doing on the phone and didn’t like the interruption.

      • I’d read something of the same. Thanks for the information. Sarah B.’s argument stops at several points, one of them being the issue Jack brought up of school chums or family members walking side by side not talking or listening to one another at all. The other is the loss of social interaction in general – I get on the same buses I’ve always ridden but where there used to be “morning, nice day isn’t it?” or “excuse me” as you brush by, or a “thanks” for the driver on the way off, or even a smile at some point before you open the newspaper or settle down with a book, or close your eyes for a bit. If it’s school time, coming or going, I see kids with their moms getting the same treatment the little girl Jack described did — being ignored. I suppose Susan B. would think it’s okay for children who haven’t seen their mothers all day, who are bursting with new things to tell them, or who are not happy and could use some attention to be completely ignored, for the entire trip (one of my usual 3:00 trips with kids and moms takes about 35 minutes … that’s a long time to do nothing on a crowded bus — can’t see out the window, no room to read for those able to (one little boy was elbowed by a passerby-with-phone and his book fell on the floor, he wriggled down to get it and someone else stepped on a corner of it and tore the page. When he began to cry – after trying very hard not to, mom took the phone about an inch from her ear and said “what?” brusquely and when he showed her the book said “shame on you, that’s a library book, we’ll have to pay for that, you know!”

        It’s getting worse, not better. And it’s no use arguing that the phone calls have any importance. I may hear only one side of them but they’re trivial and repetitive … and loud and personal in the most mundane ways (the other day I heard a woman with two girls that she’d insisted sit on either side of her even though they’d been quietly playing a game together, have a discussion about her brother-in-law picking his nose. The “good” moms (and dads too) are showing their kids how to use the phones and giving them toy phones or small real ones to keep them busy …. so they won’t “bother” their parents. They’re so proud. It’s so sick.

        As for former generations doing the same. Far from it. Like all my contemporaries, I was expected to speak to people who spoke to me – and they did. If my aunt was out with her four children, the one who needed attention at any time could go sit next to her and have her ear, if only for a few moments. People spent time with their children without hovering over them, and left them alone (me especially since I usually had my head in a book) when they wanted to be. Parents did that weird thing that the phone-moms and pops don’t do any more: they spent time teaching their children and learning from them, if only by asking and answering their questions. They weren’t sent off to “google” the answers. Okay. That’s enough. It’s depressing. Sarah B. has been acculturated to her own generation and cannot see where it’s leading. Mine and those before me that I knew of looked to the both to the past and the future for themselves and their children instead of immersing themselves constantly in an anxious, uncommunicative present.

  6. Okay. Full stop Jack. You honestly DON’T know why she was on the phone. I am a very involved parent, indeed, some criticize me for being too involved. But yes, there are times when I need to take a phone call for work or personal reasons. You don’t know this woman — it is very possible that she was doing something important. Further, let’s assume for the moment that it wasn’t a critical call. So what? Maybe she is an amazing parent the other 99% of the time — sometimes kids need to learn that the world does not revolve around them.

    Okay, now here’s where I know I will upset a few people. Maybe she didn’t want to engage with YOU. Yes, it’s great if we can all live in a warm, loving community, but she doesn’t know you. Just because you have a friendly looking dog doesn’t mean that you aren’t some scary stranger. She’s out with her young daughter alone — perhaps it is just her personal safety code that she doesn’t approach male strangers on the street. She is not obligated to interact with you. Or maybe she is afraid of dogs?

    Slightly off topic, let me share my own 7-11 story from a few weeks ago since you are so fond of 7-11 ethics. I have a diet coke addiction, and most mornings I get a soda from 7-11 on my way to work. One day, I got to the register, and the clerk told me that another gentleman (about 4 people in front of me) paid for my diet coke. Okay, that sounds super nice, right? Except, he didn’t pay for everybody’s drink in front of me, just mine. So this wasn’t a “pay it forward” situation, this was, “Ah-hah! Now this woman will be forced to interact with me.” And I did, social norms dictate that I had to thank this strange man — even though I didn’t want to, am MARRIED, and can afford my own $1 beverage thank you very much. I know many people here think that there was nothing wrong with what he did, but this kind of stuff happens to women all the time. Sometimes we just want to be left alone.

    • In my neighborhood “right outside any 7-11” is the official gathering place of the homeless. I can’t wrap my brain around having the option to avoid unsolicited conversations. I wouldn’t even be able to pump gas.

      • Isaac wrote, “In my neighborhood “right outside any 7-11” is the official gathering place of the homeless. I can’t wrap my brain around having the option to avoid unsolicited conversations. I wouldn’t even be able to pump gas.”

        If people are harassing patrons of the 7-11 the management should be personally and immediately notified that if they don’t put a stop to the harassment at their store you’ll take your business elsewhere. Be true to your word, take your business elsewhere if they don’t do something about it but also complement management if they do take care of the problem.

        • I never thought of it as harassment. They’re actually pretty polite and don’t press the issue if I can’t/won’t give them anything. Sometimes they just want to talk about whatever, or smile at the baby. There are usually cops around.

          A few years back, I was in Memphis at a Greyhound bus stop and wandered outside, and THAT was harassment. Several dudes competing for me to give them cash. In my face, more or less demanding it. One actually punched my arm and cursed me out when I declined. If I were a woman in that situation I’d be rightly terrified.

    • One day, I got to the register, and the clerk told me that another gentleman (about 4 people in front of me) paid for my diet coke… Except, he didn’t pay for everybody’s drink in front of me, just mine.

      No, that was super creepy. Why not just say ‘hello’ like normal folks?

      this kind of stuff happens to women all the time. Sometimes we just want to be left alone.

      You live in a very dark world, and I do not understand the society that tolerates such behavior.

      The women in my life, here in the heartland, do not have such things happening to them all the time. They say so. Why do you choose to live where you do, given this constant harassment?

      • Slick — I do not live in a dark world; I live in the real world. I grew up in a deeply religious community — the same behavior happened there. The same thing has happened (many times over) to just about every single female I know — whether they live in the South, the North, the Midwest, or the “big city.” This is why most women have developed what is commonly referred to as “resting bitch face.” It’s so we don’t get approached. Several times now you have remarked that my experiences must somehow be unusual — it’s either a way of discrediting me OR it’s your way of escape so you don’t have to analyze concepts that go against those that you hold dear. In any event, this was not creepy — it was annoying. I had no fear that this man was going to accost me at the busy 7-11. Similarly, I don’t think it’s creepy when the construction workers catcall — it’s just annoying and gross. I shouldn’t have to make contact with strangers if I don’t want to. I shouldn’t have to look up from my book at the airport because some man sees an alone woman as an invitation. I should not have to be told to “smile” on the metro because it will make me “that much prettier.”

        I am a sucker for a cute dog though — I’m sure I would have stopped to pet Jack’s boy.

        • Your posts suggest that you live in a dark place… sorry if that observation offends.

          I would guess this is a function of geography rather than related to you particularly.

          Women here put up with far less than you describe. They say so, I say so. My observation and word carry the same weight as do yours, except yours must be the ‘real world.’ Maybe real where you live. Not my experience. And if anyone here is working to not “ analyze concepts that go against those that you hold dear” it is progressives and limo liberals, bless your heart.

          Still, it is your experience and worldview. As valid as any.

    • Spartan, you are fortunate to have your life so full, so occupied, that you don’t notice people have stopped talking to one another. And I don’t mean “on the phone.” That habit is about as worthwhile as Twitting: it’s a hear-nothing, say-nothing time waster for the most part. You may be the one – the lawyer, the wife, the mother – who uses the phone only when there’s a reason for it. That puts you in a high bracket of a minority — people who find it possible not to fall into any communication traps. Fewer and fewer people have meaningful or challenging jobs anymore, or spend the time with your children that you carve out of your day, and still find pleasurable or needful connection with your husband, other family, friends.

      If you really believe that most people are like you, and have to have their phones with them all the time and make or take calls as if they are important when they are out walking with their child (or well, of course, it must be an important call or she could wait til she got home, right?). The likelihood that Jack’s interpretation is the correct one is borne out by what I see every day. And it is getting worse every year.

      And yes, I have a phone. And several jobs, albeit all volunteer, but at least one of which has me “on call” several days a week. My phone stays in my pocket. When I am outdoors, I will take it out and look at the caller ID, not answer automatically. I have yet to receive one urgent call, something that couldn’t wait until I got home or until tomorrow or next week … nor have others I know of, of different generations – we’ve talked about it. I have made three urgent calls to police regarding a witnessed assault, a traffic accident no one else observed, and for an ambulance for an elderly woman who’d fallen and couldn’t [as the joke goes, haha] get up — one leg was twisted in an unnatural position. So I’m perfectly happy to have the phone but even when I was doing home care nursing, I never said more than was absolutely necessary in public, and never stayed on the phone longer than needed. At home, I will chat with friends or discuss film programming, or (groan) spend an hour getting past a robot to get a problem solved with AT&T, but my time is spent mostly on writing, having friends over for dinner, and organizing lessons for volunteer training or preparing teaching plans for illiterate adults. But when I am with other people – friends or strangers or just walking for pleasure or exercise or relaxation – the phone is not in use. I only carry it then because one of these days I will no doubt fall and not be able to get up.

  7. This is now the standard, and the habit skews young, which will make it impossible to apply shame.

    Some smart people will resist this behavior because they are aware of the negative social and mental outcomes. Some religious people will resist, so as to interact respectfully with one another the way God intended.
    And some granola hipsters will buck the trend as well in order to interact the natural/organic way (at least I expect they might. I’m still waiting for that crowd to come out against porn.)

    The people most victimized by the allure of the smart phone are the ones who can least afford to be- poor people, people from difficult family situations, and people who struggle to delay gratification.

  8. Still Spartan,
    Even though you made some reasonable points, you do realize that a lot of what you wrote were assumptions and some of what you wrote was rationalizations, right?

    I agree about we don’t know why she was on the phone, but in reality it’s quite irrelevant.

    Your 7-11 story; was the guy hitting on you? You do know you can simply say “that was very nice of you, thank you” and move on. There is absolutely no social obligation to interaction more than a simple thank you. If the guy is expecting more than a thank you, that’s his problem not yours and if he’s annoyingly persistent you can just use that kind gesture of a soda to rapidly wet down his face. 😉

    • Mr. Zoltar, while Ms. Spartan is more than capable of defending her point of view, I must say that I respectfully disagree that it is irrelevant why the mother was on the phone. Perhaps I am a horribly unethical person, but let me tell you the story of my second child. When she was one month old, my second child developed a severe eating disorder. We then went for ten months where this child nearly starved to death in constant pain from what her body was telling her was overeating. We pestered doctors and specialists time and again to tell us what was wrong. We had DFS/CPS called on us twice because that baby was defined as “failure to thrive.” She didn’t look sick and unless you were a medical professional, you’d never have known that she wasn’t just a colicky baby but medical practitioners that we asked for help turned us in because they thought we were doing something bad to her as her symptoms couldn’t be explained by them. She screamed 8-14 hours a day. Then a specialist finally decided that it was time to listen to us and eventually we got enough tests and evaluations done that we got a real diagnosis, something that helped, ten months and thousands of dollars in bills later. However, to make this all work, I had to be on the phone from 8 AM until 5 PM many days on end. I would have to call the pediatrician, the specialists, the insurance, the surgery department, the surgical center, the anesthesiologist, the interventional radiology department, the hospitalist, nuclear medicine, the ER, admission, billing, medical supply, medical services, and so many more just to get my kid seen and treated properly. I spent hours on the phone to help my baby girl, jumping through the hoops. If I was that mother, I very well might have pulled my child away from the dog and drug her elsewhere while I talked. I had very important business to attend to and no time to analyze the situation, if I even noticed it. My other child’s life was on the line. (Ok, I’d have had both kids with me, and a stroller, but I can’t be too picky with the details.) Would that have been unethical too? To be giving your toddler what little fun you could, while trying to save the other child’s life? If that mother had been dealing with similar issues on the phone, would that have made a difference to this whole analysis?

      I have another recent situation that I think is important to this analysis. I was taking my kids out to play and I got a call from my dad. My dad NEVER calls during the day, always waiting until bed time. I answered the call to find out that my uncle was dying. We went over all the details and then, I was told that if I wanted to see my uncle before he died, I’d need to catch a flight by no later than tomorrow morning and even then it was iffy. I chose not to, but if I had chosen to go say goodbye, I’d have ignored everyone around me, snatched the kids up, and gotten myself to the airport. (This conversation would have been obvious to everyone around me, as I would have been incoherently crying, but not everyone cries like I do.) If that mother had been dealing with similar issues on the phone, would that have made a difference to this whole analysis?

      Does the reason for the call really matter so little?

      • Sarah B. wrote, “I respectfully disagree that it is irrelevant why the mother was on the phone.”

        I understand your argument; however, if the child ran out into traffic and was killed while she was on the phone the call is irrelevant and it’s just as irrelevant if the child doesn’t run out in traffic. The child is her responsibility and phone calls that distract from that responsibility are irrelevant, no one is forcing her to answer and talk on the phone when her focus “should” be elsewhere.

        That’s my opinion.

      • Awful stories, Sarah B., but they have nothing to do with people who spend a lot, if not most, of their time while they are with their children (or besties, or elderly relatives) chatting idly on the phone. It is a compulsion, this drive to answer every call just because you can or to make calls because you think something is going on, that there is news you need to hear right now. That is a mental illness, and it is afflicting a large part of our population.

        Personally, I’m longing for that big sunspot that will shut it all down for an hour or so, just like that first Earth Day in Manhattan when everyone went out in the streets to hear the sudden, never-before-heard silence, smell how fresh the real fresh air smelled when there were no cars running about, feel the sunshine, speak without having to raise their voices. The argument that there is always an emergency somewhere so you always have to have your phone ready should not have been a valid one. At&T and Ma Bell removed just about all their pay phones and they were never replaced with emergency lines at regular locations. So one of these days, we may have all those terrible things happening to lots of people at once, and the rest of you may go insane with the anxiety of not being able to call . . . everybody on their Contact List, including te pizza delivery service. Calm down! It hasn’t happened. Yet.

  9. I’d be concerned the child’s mother would think you were a creeper to use your dog to get the girl’s attention. It’s not fair or logical, but she excuses yanking the girl away on the poor lost child urban legends she just read on her phone… She did nothing wrong! (uggh)

    A child(children) must be more important than random phone use. (pets too) Why have or keep them if you don’t want to spend a lot of time with them? Neglect is terrible, our one dog had such issues when we got him after X period of it. We can’t do anything about some kids. They are not trophies of the success or tickets to someone’s approval. (uggh)

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