When I read the following story in one of my favorite magazines, it hit home on what has been on my mind this month. Thank you Dutch Mandel; you’ve written half of my column this month.
“Civilization as we know it has come to an end. Who needs the Mayans to tell us otherwise? Dogs are sleeping with cats. Wrong is now right. And one recent morning, an adorable blue-haired granny presented me with a somewhat withered but erect middle finger.
“Why? Well, as we were both moving along our merry ways during the morning commute, me to her left, her attention was glued to a smartphone six inches from her beak rather than to the car stopped six feet from her front bumper.
“She looked in time to react, and in so doing she set in motion a series of events that did not need to happen. She pounced on her brakes. Her charming, bouncing granddaughter, who had been frolicking in the back seat – yes, without visible restraint – ping ponged off the back of the driver’s seat and headrest and crumpled unceremoniously to the footwell. Stunned silence was followed by a crying jag.
“Grandmama showed concern at the girl’s predicament, finally putting her phone down and reaching over the seat to calm and reassure the child. Traffic, and she, then started to move again.
“That’s when I shot ‘Gams’ a look of extraordinary disapproval and shook my head in disgust. I wagged a finger at her and held up my phone to suggest that, had she been paying attention to driving, her passenger would be in better sorts. She got the hint. I got the bird.”
I have noticed lately what seems to be an increasing number of drivers doing just as Grandma – driving with their phones in front of their faces. At stoplights, I can always tell who’s texting – the light turns green and they’re just sitting there. I think I’ve used my horn more in the last six months than in the previous six years.”
And the guy weaving in his lane, glancing off the rumble strips on the edge of the pavement?
Yep, he’s texting. Have we all gotten so important that we cannot leave our smartphones alone long enough to safely commute? Or for that matter, to attend a 30-minute meeting?
I have also noticed that in more and more of my meetings and presentations to clients and prospects the meeting attendees bring their phones – and continue to text, read emails, or play games during our presentations. One meeting was so bad, I literally stopped talking and waited to see if anyone would notice.
I can’t decide how to read this behavior. On one hand, I wonder if it isn’t something to do with this being the “ADD generation” – so hopped up on constant stimulus starting from early childhood that sitting still and listening (or driving) is simply not physically or emotionally possible. On the other hand, it would seem to show an incredible disrespect for others – meeting attendees, the meeting leader, other drivers.
Perhaps we’re heading for a cultural shift where none of us ever has to leave our small cubicle of space in which we exist. With our smartphone, we can email or text. We can tweet about what we ate for lunch, we can tell everyone on Facebook what think of our neighbors (without ever having actually met them). We can order anything we want online (and never have to set foot in a store – or a tradeshow – again).
I think I’d like to try doing it the pre-text, pre-Facebook, pre email way, when communication often meant you actually had to get up and walk or drive (safely) to speak (with your mouth) face to face.
There’s a novel idea…
See you on the show floor…
Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 30 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner in the tradeshow and event marketing firm Reveal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.