Can I tell you something that I’m tired of?
I’m tired of people whipping out their phone to share photos, no matter how hard I try to ooh and ahh at every image.
It’s not often that I get to see my friend Lynn. She’s independently wealthy and travels a lot. I’m not, so I work a lot. And the last time we met it was clear to me what Lynn’s latest adventure is: her phone.
“Why are you taking pictures of that?” I asked.
“To share with my daughter.”
“It’s a salad. Surely she’s seen one before.”
“To show how pretty it is.” And, like that, she begins to scroll through a million salad photos. Okay, that’s a teeny exaggeration. But there were many. So many, in fact, my first thought was, there’s silly, and then there’s ridiculous. But never mind. Obviously my fatigue is beside the point.
Or maybe it is the point.
Because it prompts the other side of my brain to kick in, the questioning side. My favorite dance teacher once said that most people are followers, monkey see, monkey do. “But an artist’s job is to question everything.”
Honestly, that was all, positively all, she had to say. I’ve questioned copy-cat behavior ever since. It used to drive my mother crazy. “Can’t you just go along with it like everyone else?” she’d say, often. About so many things.
“Ok, mom, let’s just go over the facts again. No. I. Cannot.”
I still believe the best reason to come together for dinner is to ignore the rest of the world, not to include them, and I said as much to Lynn.“Lynn, I want to share stories about what we’re doing and what we want to do next, not listen to pings.”
Oh, I miss uninterrupted conversations! We are designed for fewer interruptions, I think.
Honestly, all this photo taking feels creepy. But this is not an opinion I share with most people. It’s sort of like my cousin Mario doing time. I love him, but I don’t bring him up to just anyone.
Plus, I have too many WALL.E-imaginings lately where everyone is documenting instead of living. “This worries me,” I said to my husband.
“There’d be something wrong with you if you weren’t worried,” he said.
Also, I’ve learned to identify the feeling inside that just knows when something is wrong, when, no matter how much money it makes for some, it’s just not better for everyone, especially people with addictive tendencies. You figure this out pretty quickly when your friend who’s fought long and hard to give up alcohol (and pot ... and pills) is snapping photos of everything around you instead of talking to you.
Finally, she put her phone on the table face up. I reached over and put it face down. “You seem different,” she said. “You’re scrappy as ever, but more relaxed.”
My mind raced, flicking through what she just said for some little prize to make my point. I wish I could say this isn’t scrappy behavior, but it is. And I only hope Rachel Carson is smiling down on me from heaven.
“Well, for one thing,” I said, “this always-on/never-off thing is way too much interference for my stress level, so I leave my phone in my purse. Are all the photos really necessary?”
“Well, they don’t make me happy, but they don’t make me any less happy.”
I felt this spoke of such personal honesty.
“Well, there you go. Now that your phone isn’t having more fun than we are,” I said, “I get to hear you say the kinds of things I love you for.”
“Oh my God,” she said. “You’re totally right. I am pretty amazing.”
Then, then, laughter and intimacy began to catch up to us.
MARY LOU SANELLI’s latest book is A Woman Writing. She'll be speaking at Town Hall Seattle on April 27 at 7:30 p.m., joined by dancers from Cornish College of the Arts.