It is the holiday season, which means that many of us are cranky. Sure, many of us are probably already cranky from having to drive in traffic and wait in line for whatever it is we decided was important enough to drive and wait in line for. But now the holiday’s are here and that inevitably means we will be crankier, more on edge, and more…aloof.
Let’s just acknowledge this.
My plea, as some one who has served and parleyed with customers for over 10 years is this: put the phone away. I know this is a request that has been made for years, and one that has often gone unanswered. But I believe that, like Sisyphus rolling his rock back up the hill, if our community is to maintain any sense of human connectedness and respect for one another there must be those of us who continue to implore for this simple act of humanity.
To be sure, cell phones are everywhere—they have become an integral part of our lives. An extension of our bodies. What is a bit staggering, if not disheartening, is just how much cell phones have become a part of our lives. Joshua Becker, writer of the blog Becoming Minimalist, lays out a few of these stats:
- 84% of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device.(1)
- 67% of cell phone owners check their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.(2)
- Studies indicate some mobile device owners check their devices every 6.5 minutes.(3)
- Almost half of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls.(4)
- Some researchers have begun labeling “cell phone checking” as the new yawn because of its contagious nature.(5)
All of this is to say that cell phones and mobile devices (i.e., technology) will quickly consume our free time, free time that might otherwise have yielded any number of real experiences with those around you. More importantly, though, is the divorce from basic respect for other human beings: when you are standing in line talking on your cell phone you cancel out the human interaction that is right in front of you. The cashier is right there, and he or she is looking at you (no doubt asking you something), but you are consumed with your conversation (be it talking or texting).
I am not so unrealistic as to hope that people will put their phones down upon entering a store. (I continue talking after entiring a store just as much as the next person.) What I would hope people would do, what I would hope you would do, is upon stepping up to the register and facing another the cashier that you take the moment to put your phone down. Don’t raise your hand, or worse your finger; don’t blame the cashier for interrupting your conversation: simply tell the person on the other end of your conversation that you are in line, and then stop talking while you interact with the person in front of you. Show that person the respect that is owed them.
I would like to think that my years of retail service have not made me so cynical as to believe that all people let cell phone conversations trump face-to-face conversations. So my holiday wish, as it has been for the past 10 years, is for people will get off their phone while they are checking out or giving their order. Maybe this year Santa will finally deliver.
While these stats are listed on Becker’s site, but I have included the sources below to ensure transparency.
This post was submitted as an editorial to the Burlington Free Press.