It was a necessary evil, my visit to the Sprint store today. My cell phone has been on the fritz for weeks, and it had to be dealt with. Visits to Sprint are never quick, and when the guy told me he was “at a loss” as to what was wrong, I gave up my dreams of getting out of there any time soon.
To pass the time, I perused the newest phones and accessories, watched cars drive by, and couldn’t help but overhear other people’s conversations. There were three rows of seats that formed a triangle around a large center pillar adorned with large monitors facing each direction. No reception today apparently as they stared blankly back at us. I sat in one of the seats anyway, and looked around. I realized should have brought a book.
Other customers came and went. Lucky them. I waited, receiving periodic updates from the Sprint guy troubleshooting my phone. His coworker chatted so long and about such personal details with another young woman that I wondered if they were actually friends. Sprint girl is probably just really open like that.
An older man sat, eyes closed mostly, looking weary and holding his cane, while his wife discussed her issue with my Sprint guy (as he waited for my phone to respond). I guessed they were on disability. A little girl sat next to the man, eating a snack, and then hopped down from the seat. Soon she began circling around the large center pillar, and I watched.
When the girl noticed me watching, I smiled and she smiled back. Before long she would stop in front of me and play peekaboo for a moment before continuing around. After a while, she was chatting with me, smiling, and hopping up and down as she held onto the seat next to me. She was three, like the number of cell phones lined up near us, she pointed out. The remains of her snack decorated her cheeks as she pointed out cars driving by, showed me her pink flip flops, counted to four, and hopped. The young woman chatting at the counter heard our chatter and turned to smile. The older man and his wife paid no attention.
So there we were, in a cell phone store, surrounded by some of the best in distraction technology, both of us waiting without a gadget or screen. For a short while our two very different worlds intersected, and we made a happy connection. And I was reminded that this is what we are made for – connection, relationship, real life. It can be so easy to hide behind our portable technology, like it’s important, rather than taking some time to talk to someone. The ads promise to make us more connected, most connected, with cell phones, tablets, apps, and more. But it’s a lie they sell for a profit. When we lose real connectedness, we lose humanness.
Sure it’s risky to talk to actual people, especially ones you don’t know. They might be weird or crazy or think you are. It could be really uncomfortable, especially for the introverts among us (like me). But a part of me thinks it just might be worth the risk. A part of me dares to think that it’s healthy and good. That maybe this is the kind of thing that our culture is so sorely lacking. That maybe if more people talked to each other, people from all different realms and realities, instead of talking about each other, then maybe – maybe – we could all get along better.
When the wife finished up her business, the older couple called the girl, and they headed out of the store. The couple walked slowly like they carried a great weight, while the child bounced carefree. As they made their way past the large windows, my little friend smiled and waved, and I did the same. And the couple paid no attention at all.