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Cell Phones
Read on Minnesota Public Radio
By Nanci Olesen

I have to be really careful how I say this. I miss you. I miss you all. It's summer, and we are all out at the lakes, on the sidewalk, on the bike paths, at a bookstore, and I miss you. We used to talk. Remember how if I was pushing a stroller with a baby in it and you were pushing a stroller with a baby in it and we passed, you might say hi or ask me how old my kid was? Remember how if I was holding a book and you would walk up behind me you used to say "Have you read her other one? Is this as good as that one?" and we might chat? Remember how if you were straddling your bike at a kiosk and I was filling my water bottle at the drinking fountain you would say "Nice day. Hey, does this path go all the way to Hopkins?"

But we don't talk anymore. Well, you talk. You talk to your mom, to your sister, to your wife, to your business partner. You let loose the most intimate details of your life right there in the bookstore at conversational volume. But you're not talking to me, or to anyone right there. You're on the phone.

And I just miss you. You don't ask me the time, cause you can just flick open the little screen on your phone and see the time. You can tell your friend who you're sitting with at the restaurant about what your phone does: movies, camera, palm pilot, email. Or I can think that you're leaning your head on your hand at that restaurant when you're still waiting for your friend to arrive, and I approach as your waitress to start chatting about the soup, the specials, what you want to drink, whether it's going to rain later, but OOPS! You're checking your voicemail! SORRY! I'll come back later. When your friend arrives, I swoop in to take your order. You both have your phones on the table, ready for whoever might want to interrupt you at that moment. Is it your kid, wanting to know how to download the latest movie? Is it your wife, in traffic, telling you something you need to do before you come home?

Remember when if you were lost on your way to your book group and were swerving around in some residential neighborhood you used to just lean out the window and ask which way Van Buren was? Remember how if you were gonna be late to book club, you just were late? And when you GOT there you said "I'm late because thus and so happened." But now you call four or five times, for directions, to tell about your lateness, to commiserate about how busy you are... and I want to say that "it's not FAIR!" The rules have all changed but you didn't ask me if I wanted them to. You just expect me to adjust to constant communication about the most mundane matters.

But I miss you. I just want eye contact, spontaneity, less interruptions. If I'm telling you some story about my son, I want you to listen all the way through and not JUMP when the phone on the table rings and smile that eerie smile to me that says "just a second. Hold that thought. I'll be right back with you." What am I supposed to do? And why do I want to sit there and listen to your side of the conversation with someone I don't know? It makes me lonely and frustrated and sad.

And I still go to the store, and when I get there I think, did Steve want me to get vanilla or chocolate? And because I can't remember I just guess and go home. It didn't really matter that much anyway and Steve was out in the garden picking raspberries and he didn't want to be interrupted.

So we just sit on the deck, eating vanilla ice cream and raspberries, talking. And you all are walking by, talking. On your phones.

I know it will never go away. I know this is how it is now, but, I miss you.

—Nanci Olesen
producer and host, MOMbo: 1990-2007

 

Nanci Olesen's commentaries that have aired on Minnesota Public Radio:

06 may 2005 • Mother's Day

17 dec 2004 • Santa Lucia

02 dec 2004 • Holiday Blues

10 sept 2004 • First Week of School

09 july 2004 • Cell Phones

10 march 2004 • Circus Food

Dad in Church

Nanci Olesen's commentaries that have been published in magazines:

May 2002 • Road Trip

Debate

Art Circle

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