Although I seem to be plodding relentlessly toward codgerhood, one sentence that you will never hear pass my lips (I hope) is “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!”
There are two reasons for this. The first is that my house (where I also grew up) doesn’t have much of a lawn anyway, and I well remember how my siblings and I often parked our bikes, trikes, wagons and what-have-yous on what little grassland we had – and there wasn’t really any grass on that land precisely because we often parked our bikes, trikes, wagons and what-have-yous on every available inch of it.
Eventually, as we edged closer to adolescence, our parents finally decided to plant some grass on this not-so-vast wasteland of dirt. This was the closest they ever came to landscaping.
The second reason I don’t disrespect my juniors is that I don’t mind being around young people. I worked with a lot of them during my 30 years at a newspaper and three years at an ad agency. I appreciated their talents and, dare I say it, sometimes I even learned from them.
One thing I especially admire about them is their ability to do something that I will never be able to do:
Talk on a cell phone in the middle of a lot of noise.
I don’t know how they manage it – maybe it’s a part of evolution that Darwin didn’t envision – but you could put any one of them and their phones in the middle of a boiler works at peak production time, surround them with bands simultaneously playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “St. Louis Blues” at competing decibels, and they wouldn’t miss a single syllable uttered from any end of the earth.
I was thinking about this for the umpteenth time while I was downtown today and needed to make a couple of calls.
I needed a quiet place – as quiet as possible. So I went into one of downtown’s oldest buildings, figuring that its marble lobby would provide the most amenable acoustics – or, better yet, no acoustics at all.
I figured wrong.
Because a big radiator near one of the two main staircases had decided to sound off. Not a very loud sound, mind you, but loud enough.
So I ducked behind one of the staircases and found something that I hadn’t realized still existed.
A line of old phone booths.
I have no idea what they were doing there – there were no phones inside them – but you could still sit inside one of them, pull the door shut and quietly go about your business.
I can’t possibly describe the looks on the faces of the people who walked by as I was using my cell phone, mainly because no people happened to walk by as I was doing this. But I must have presented quite a minor spectacle – anachronism as performance art.
I suppose I’m grateful there were no witnesses – perhaps one of them would have taken a picture of me with their phone, and presto! Instant clickbait.
Maybe I would even have made the evening news shows, which are always looking for anything to put on instead of, God forbid, actual news.
And of course there then would have been enormous public pressure on me to top myself, maybe by perusing my iPad while perched in a Tin Lizzie. Or piloting a drone in the Sistine Chapel, and thereby stirring up a theological hornet’s nest. (Is a flyby a mortal sin or is it just venial?)
And my heart stops and my blood pressure surges to new heights as I come to realize how close I might have come to becoming – gasp! – a cultural icon.
Then again, these days it seems that every man Jack, every woman Jill, every dog Fido and pretty much every existing being, animal, vegetable or mineral – yes, even including you and me – is either an icon or is on its way to becoming one. Just stay on the line, and we’ll get to you shortly.
And as always, your call is important to us.