I am a very communicative person by nature. I’m one of those people who truly enjoys striking up a conversation with a stranger, whether it be in a store, an elevator, or a dentist’s waiting room. Over the years I have gotten to know the maintenance staff at my school quite well and we’ve discussed everything from their grandkids to their culture and cuisine. I somehow feel better going about my day if I have spoken to someone new and have had some good times over the years commiserating with anxious people awaiting root canals. Conversation has a way of easing concerns and bringing a bit of levity to an otherwise nerve-wracking situation.
Knowing myself well and understanding my penchant for meeting new people and making small talk, I looked forward to taking my grandson to his appointment at the orhtodontist last week. After all, what is more fun than talking about your grandchildren? At any rate, we entered the waiting room, which was state of the art, a huge, open area. It came equipped with a coffee bar, all flavors of Keurig, no less, tables and chairs, and even arcade type machines for younger siblings. Not one to turn down coffee, I poured myself a cup, sat down and proceeded to observe those waiting with me. As I surveyed the scene, it struck me how different the ambience was from that of years ago when I took my own children to the orthodontist. There were about 30 people in this room; mothers with laptops perched on their knees, children at the arcade games, mothers, dads and teens texting or playing on their I Phones. What struck me most was the SILENCE. No one was talking…No one was engaged with his or her child. No one was reading a book (I know, it was a silly thought). One mother DID attempt to engage her teenage son. She sat right next to him and while texting, leaned over to him a couple of times to ask a question or perhaps to initiate conversation. He mumbled a one word response and never once looked up from his phone. Finally, she gave up the idea and went back to texting. I watched as they both seemed to text in unison, mother and son, not sharing their day.
I couldn’t help but remember times when my two sons and I sat in a dentist’s waiting room and had great conversations. When they were younger we would play word games until we were called into the office and had successfully postponed anxiety for a time. We’d play Hangman or I See Something That You Don’t See..but none of the little tykes in this waiting room were going to be satisfied with that..They were into working the arcade machine.
I continued to watch these mothers hone their fine motor skills on their phones and I wanted to tell them that life was going by. I’m sure their kids had things they’d like to share. Or maybe that desire is no longer one that youth no longer has.
Now, before I belabor this topic anymore, let me say that I am definitely for technology. I keep my cell phone at my side, I text and I’m at my laptop a lot. I see the great value of our technological advances. Yet this so-called way of facilitating communication has somehow managed to take away from it. Oral communication has definitely suffered. I still wince a bit when I hear well-educated anchors struggling with perfect tenses, though that matters little in the big scheme of things. More importantly, we’re just not as friendly as we used to be. We don’t lend support or encouragement to strangers as we once did.
I had a long time to mull all this over that day at the orthodontist. I sat in silence for a half hour sipping my Keurig. No one even looked my way. I suppose it all boils down to the fact that texting trumps talking in 2012. But if anyone wants to call or converse over coffee, just call me.