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Quiet Desperation

Many have lost their way since phones became things to look at


Out of necessity, my college syllabi expanded by the month, as new infractions were coming in all the time.

My first syllabus, in 1973, asked for no smoking, and that was about it.

By the end (2003), the list went on for about six pages.

No automatic weapons. No shouting, "I am the Messiah." And no cellphone calls. Cellphones weren't on the market in 1973 - that's why they weren't on the list back then.

Hard to believe now - isn't it? - that there was a time before mobile devices?

Unless you were Dick Tracy. Tracy used to talk to his wrist.

Ironically, the first mobile phone call was made in 1973.

On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, "called a rival company and informed them he was speaking on a mobile phone (knowyourmobile.com)," albeit one about the size of a hiking boot.

It's untrue that he said, "What's the frequency, Kenneth?," or asked for a medium, hand-tossed with everything.

While Cooper was on the phone, he reached for his coffee, misjudged the handle, and dropped and broke the cup. It was the first instance of what is now referred to as "distracted talking."

Distracted talking is illegal in Honolulu.

Stamford, Connecticut, may be next.

I like it. Give me more.

I admit that I am old-fashioned, and prefer it when people pay attention, and watch where they are going. But those days aren't numbered.

Those days are over.

I can't get from produce to frozen foods without pushing my cart defensively, because someone is making a life-changing call or a life-changing text and wandering in the aisles.

In Honolulu (of all places), smartphone use is illegal by pedestrians crossing streets.

Inevitably, there was a backlash.

"Why should the government dictate where I look?" one person said.

When a distracted driver flattens a distracted talker, who is a fault? Further, who cares?

According to data compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths in the United States have been on the rise, and the two highest years were 2015 and 2016.

Statistics don't show if the pedestrians were distracted, but Richard Retting, a former traffic safety commissioner for the New York Department of Transportation, said, "When you keep records for 40 years and see two consecutive years with the back-to-back largest, that tells you something. I don't think it's a leap of faith when you look at the increase in cellphone usage."

Leaving the house is an adventure. Anything goes, and it's all a part of living the good life, as it is now perceived, and non-stop calls and texts and self-indulgent selfies are as good as it gets, anytime, anywhere, no matter what.

A friend of mine just moved to La Veta. She said, "It is the strangest thing. People say hello to people on the street, not to people on the phone."

I am retired, why not move to La Veta? Pack the dog and leave it all behind?
For one thing, Jennifer would be unable to go with me.

For another thing, I might run out of things to write about if I lived in a community where people appreciated the moment, and did one thing at a time.

No, give me Mr. and Mrs. Magoo in metro Denver.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net


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