Goddess mug shot

The Goddess Speaks


Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Hello, is any
human being
out there?

WHILE technology has delivered small, easy-to-use and affordable gadgets designed to keep us connected with one another, we have lost our minds, suffering from the great disconnect.

It's as though we simply have no choice now but to take or make a phone call the instant the mood strikes, whether we are in an elevator, at the grocery store, in a restaurant, on a moped, or boarding a plane.

I have witnessed many odd cell phone situations, including watching two attractive people at a restaurant, probably on a date, spend at least 5 minutes on their respective phones. (Hey, maybe they were talking to each other.)

Then there is the all-too-familiar example of being in a crowded room when a phone rings. Like a scene out of a gangster movie, everyone reaches for their phones.

As if the mere use of cell phones is not invasive enough, we also must contend with the irritating variety by which calls announce themselves, from the harmless ring, to the odd mechanical melodies and high-pitched chirps, to blinking neon lights. It's like having a slot machine connected to your waist!

And don't get me started on the growing use of those new "hands-free" units that leave the wearer dripping in cord. So many people are walking our streets holding one-sided conversations, it's getting harder to tell the urbanite from the emotionally disturbed.

Perhaps most depressing is our willingness to navigate our cars with one hand, while fiddling with a phone with the other. It's only a matter of time before someone is hurt or lives are lost because of a distracted driver on the phone.

I remember when portable phones were for emergency calls and people would sheepishly leave the room to make their call. How is it that our need to communicate escalated to such heights that we unashamedly take calls in the most inappropriate places?

A friend says the overuse of technology is, to her, the ultimate sign of our sad disconnect with the world we live in. We are everywhere but in the space we physically occupy and with the people before us. We have let our desire to be somewhere else get the better of us, and that in doing so we have compromised important social and civic practices. Just because we can make a call, doesn't mean we should.

The good news is that we have the power to leave the cellular jungle and go back to a place of common sense, civility and uninterrupted live conversations. The next time you have a social or business engagement, turn off your phone; you can check your messages later.

I have no doubt you will survive this challenge, and you might even be better for it. If you want to test your will, leave the phone at home for a day. Sure, you'll be nervous at first, wondering what calls you've missed, but you'll find that life goes on quite nicely without a phone clamped to your ear.

And for you drivers, park the car before you call to find out what's on the social calendar for the weekend. You'll have the assurance of knowing that you are doing your part to keep the roads safe, and you might even live to enjoy the weekend.

Miki Lee works for the Hawaii State Judiciary
Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802, or send e-mail

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