An airplane is indeed a fascinating place. People behave too honestly on a plane. They have purchased their seat and claim its ownership. It is a precarious tin can where many feel a sense of anonymity from the world around them. Safe at 35000 feet the world below is not watching…. Let the manners fade, let the idiosyncrasies reign… let the freak flag fly.
And so it begins. A woman to my right has turned on her phone and has begun a “face time” conversation with her son in Los Angeles. I know this because I am NOT eavesdropping. She is speaking on her speakerphone. She holds the phone in front of her and his face appears. I look over. Her son’s name is George (she loves him ”tons”) and he wears glasses. They discuss whether he should get new furniture in his room. She chews her gum loudly. He picks at his teeth. I can see his braces from the safety of my chair.
For a brief moment I revel in the fact that indeed I live in the future. Here I sit on a flying machine in Toronto ready to take off to the other side of the country. In 5 or so hours I will be in Vancouver, my home sweet home, my city of joy. Next to me sits a woman who can see her sons face 3000km away. They are having a conversation as if they both sat at a kitchen table somewhere.
For an instant I soften. It’s sweet. If the plane goes down somewhere over the prairies she’ll have seen George’s face. He will undoubtedly post this thought on Facebook as he mourns his mother’s passing. It will save him years of therapy- he got to see her and talk to her before the fateful event.
But my soft (and twisted) sentiments quickly fade as I watch this woman chew her gum like a farm animal. She is smacking it and cracking it for God and country and now her voice rises to a new height. The entire section of the plane we are sitting in can hear how George really should clean his room and finish his homework before she gets home. He shows her a pile of clothes in the corner of his domain and they discuss proper folding.
She pauses for moments in the conversation to play with the television on the back of the seat in front of her. She discusses with George what movie to watch on the plane. She reads the list out to him and they banter back and forth about what he would watch.
The conversation continues for at least another 10 minutes. This is not a quick chat.
I have now formed an unreasonable opinion of this woman as I diagnose her with some variation of Attention Deficit. She suffers from what I like to call GUD- Generalized Unlikable Disorder. I do not like her. I dislike her complete disregard for space and time. She is “one of those” where nothing has a place and time…. Everything is free game. She likely texts in her car, talks in movies and answers telephone calls at the dinner table regardless of their importance. She sparingly uses words like “please”, “thank you” and “Excuse me”.
The world has grown accustomed and accommodating of people like this gum chewing face timer. We have blurred the lines of privacy so far in today’s world that the lines indeed no longer exist.
When cell phones first came out- calls were taken in discrete corners away from prying ears. Now we have grown comfortable with the world listening in so as to be oblivious of any necessary distance needed between one life and another.
What I really mean to say is when did privacy die? DO I really need to see George in L. A. air his dirty laundry (it really was laundry) while I’m waiting for my plane ride home? I know it’s the future but must we go back to 1950 in order to have certain standard rules of conduct?
Make no mistake I do love many of the advantages of the future but I suppose I’m just greedy. I want it all, my way and I want it wrapped up with manners.
If we must speed forward into an uncertain tomorrow should we not have some codes of conduct to guide our way?
Wouldn’t it be great if every time a new technology came out there was one book of instructions how to operate it and one book of “proper operations”; a book of manners; on how to really use the thing?
The New iPhone? How about a few key points from “Zentner’s rules of technology conduct”
1. Texting “How are you?” to a friend you have not seen in over a month is just bad form.
2. Texting should be reserved for quick check ins, instructions, directions and telling your beloved to bring home Pellegrino from the grocery store.
3. Don’t even think of looking at the phone in a movie theatre, Broadway theatre, theatre of any kind.
4. Vibrate- it’s a movement many people should really get on board.
5. When you do speak in public know that I am listening. You better have something important to say.
6. Under no circumstances do you continue a phone call while engaging in any other interaction. If you are paying for groceries on a call? PUT THE PHONE DOWN.
Oh. Ladies and gentlemen I do think we are on to something here. Manners for the Millennium? A Do’s and Don’t for Digital?
Let’s see if we can make it happen.
And as we move forward into this brave new world, this 2014 on the calendar of life, know that I’m here for you my sweet soldiers of fortune…. And be safe out there… life’s a tricky one.