Coffee Connections ~ my column from Sunday's paper
The allure of a new coffee bar in Jasper was too robust to pass up, so I decided to give it a try. I love frou-frou coffee, and the ones they sell at Mickey D’s wasn’t cutting it. After a meeting at the college in
Jasper, I wheeled in front of Lavish Coffee Bar just down from the courthouse and walked inside.
It has a hip decor, and the baristas look like they could pick up work on the side as models for Gap ads.
As I stood there watching the young woman assemble my mocha, I overheard one young customer who was leaning on the coffee bar sipping his spice tea talking about his first phone. “It was a chunk,” he said. Another customer who was just a little older explained that her first cell phone came in a bag.
I have shoes older than most of these kids, but I wanted to be hip and fit in. “I still remember my first telephone number.” They all paused for a moment and looked at me. “It was Milton 8-5029.” They waited for the rest of the number.
Explaining that our first phone was before area codes and before the phone company added 64 in front of the phone number, it became apparent they didn’t have a point of reference. Nodding in unison, they turned their attention back to their phones.
I went on to mention that the first phone line in our house was a party line we shared with a neighbor across the street. That phone service was kind of a precursor to Facebook except you couldn’t show the neighbor a picture of your dog unless you walked over to her house. But she pretty much knew our business and what we were having for supper.
It appeared the kids in the coffee bar were trying to imagine life before iPhones.
When the barista slid my finished mocha across the counter, I picked it up and headed outside. The ride home was a contemplative one. I hadn’t thought of the old phone number in years, and the memory made me reflect on life before smartphones.
It seems that my head wasn’t as jammed back then. With smartphones, I get the latest news notifications throughout the day as well as reminders of the next appointment on my calendar. If I’m in the car, I’m usually listening to books on tape (they haven’t been on tape in years), or talking to someone on the phone.
The times when I get in a slow-moving checkout line at Walmart, I usually look around at other line-waiters. It’s normal to see many of them peering at their phones. When I see them, it reminds me that my email hasn’t been checked in 90 seconds so I pull the phone from my pocket to scan the latest offers from Groupon, ads for motorized carts or some other vital information.
I’m not cracking on kids for spending time looking at the tiny screens on their phones because I’m as guilty as they are at times. But I can’t help but think we are missing something.
If we’re looking at a phone, we don’t notice the small child in the buggy just in front of us in the grocery line smiling at us angelically. The friend or neighbor we haven’t seen in years may be standing in the next line over. If so, he might as well be on another planet. We’re so busy with technology that we neglect the human connections.
In retrospect, maybe those party lines weren’t all that bad.