My former neighbor Debbi – of the younger-than-40 neighbor set – teased me once.
“That should be your mantra,” she said.
I knew she was referring to the three words I had just uttered during our telephone conversation. But I hadn’t realized, until she mentioned it, that Say that again? was something I said so frequently that it qualified as a mantra.
“I say that a lot?” I asked.
“All the time.”
When our telephone conversation was over, I thought about what Deb had said. I thought about my apparent overuse of Say that again?, and then I thought about the mechanics of the telephone conversation we had just had. Deb was on her cell phone; I was on my land line. My needing to ask her to repeat what she had just said was a reflection of the technology, not of my hearing nor of my attention span.
When she had suggested my mantra, I asked Deb if other people didn’t do the same thing. (I.e., if other people didn’t occasionally make the request: say that again?) But Debbi was assured in her response. Among all the people with whom she spoke on the telephone, I was the only one who asked that statements be repeated.
As I continued to think about Deb’s and my telephone conversation, I became sadder.
But I wasn’t sad for me.
Rather, I felt sad for the under-40s, whose telephone conversations – cell phone to cell phone – are so regularly interrupted that they don’t even acknowledge it when they’ve missed something.
They don’t even think to inject, Say that again?
I’m guessing, too, that the people who don’t acknowledge missed dialogue are multi-tasking in the moment.
They could be driving or shopping.
Maybe they’re at a restaurant, having dinner with a friend.
Perhaps they are updating their Facebook page or glancing at the television.
They could be watching one of the 24/7 news networks.
They could be watching both the story and the crawl.
The story and the crawl…
In my opinion, we need to lose the crawl.
We need to get back to the story.