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September 2019
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Turn off that trifling telephony thing and talk to someone face to face


Seein' as Christmas Day found me on the road away from round here, I stopped midday at a handy Waffle House to place a to-go order. Was lunch time on Christmas Day, mind you. And the Waffle House bein' the only eatery open just then, I had lots of company for sharin' that precious moment.

I weren't inside the Perimeter, but I'd surely crossed that twilight zone 'tween rural North Georgia and the Atlanta 'burbs, I can tell ya. Can't describe it exactly, but I 'spect most folks know the feelin’: that whole "We ain't in Kansas no more, Toto" thing. You know what I mean.

Well, that might explain somethin’ I seen in that little greasy spoon of a place, somethin' I found more than a tad unusual, even a trifle troublin'. See, while I was standin' round 'gainst the wall, lookin' dumb and a-waitin' for my order, I had time to check out the other diners. Many waited to be seated, the crowd heaped up as it was.

First I noticed this little teenaged girl a-standin' up holdin' a book in front of her face. Was a Christmas present just received, I figured, and she was a-busy gettin' into it. But there she was in a whole group of folks––her family, it looked like.

My mama would never put up with that. At our house, books was mainly for noddin' off with all piled up in a bed at the end of the day. And when folks come to see us, we shut off the TV, the radio, whatever other electrically aggravated device sure to present a distraction, and we'd plain visit, that's all. Usually some laughter and pleasant conversation involved.

I mention the electronics 'cause the fellow what was that little girl's daddy (looked like), he weren't readin' no book. Naw, his face was plum glued to some cell phone device instead, and him just a-thumbin' on the damn thing. Had he ever arrived at my mama's table at such a sport, she'd have found him a dark place to park that gizmo, I can tell ya.

And as I looked around all over in that restaurant, I noticed a whole buncha folks a-busy at the same business. 'Bout broke my heart to see it. 'Cause it was Christmas, you understand, the day I recall from childhood as sort of the high holy day of warm fellowship and family love.

"Y'all turn that junk off and talk to each other," I wanted to say to them. I knew I had no right to, it still bein' a free country and all, but I wanted to say it. I wanted to remind 'em how short this life is – how we don't have each other forever, y'know – how moments well shared grow priceless in retrospect – and how a lot of distractin' nonsense can nix the most important communicatin' we’ll ever do, the kind that binds us face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart.

Well, that's just how things have gotten below the Etowah, I reckoned. Yeah, 'til someone told me they'd seen a marcher in Jasper's Christmas parade a-textin’ as she went. Could be it's much the same all over. Have mercy.

I'd apologize for lettin' a rant 'gainst new-fangled gadgetry fashion me a fogey so soon into 2011, but I'd be just plain lyin' if I didn't admit I like the old days much better. The old ways, at least.

I’d say we got along a lot better then without all these electronic distractors. And I aim to keep gettin' along without 'em. Just give me a cup of coffee and a friend to enjoy it with. And all that folderol ‘bout “Can you hear me now?” – I won’t be wonderin’ a lick about that. I'm sure ‘tween caffeine and conversation, that friend and I will understand each other just fine.


Jasper Pickens