Wednesday, November 25, 2009

iPhone rant

While I continue to play Monday Morning Knee Quarterback, I wanted to share a recent observation.

As I was leaving a Dallas Mavs game with my 7-year old son, I noticed a group of twenty-something guys and girls hanging around the main lobby area. The guys wore slacks and fitted, striped button-down shirts (I’m also pretty sure they leased BMWs, lived in 600-square foot apartments and racked up $30,000 in credit card debt, like most Dallas Chachis). The girls wore pant suits, so I don’t think they were hookers. Anyway, they looked like they were trying to figure out where to go next. Yet this group wasn’t laughing out loud or goofing around, the kind of behavior you’d expect from people this age. In fact, they didn’t seem to be having fun at all, or even socializing with each other. Something didn’t look right.

And then it hit me – all of them were texting. These people were more into their phones than their friends. At the risk of sounding like an old foagy – oh, these young whipper-snappers and their portable internets – what’s the point of going out with your friends if you’re not going to pay any attention to them? That makes no sense.

Like rats following the Pied Piper, one member of the group eventually signaled that it was time to leave, and everybody filed out of the arena. Of course, three-fourths of them continued pecking away on their phones, which made walking difficult. Actually, they looked like they were waddling. People probably thought they had dumped in their trousers. But seriously, I’m not sure what shocked me more: that people would ignore their friends like this, or that friends would tolerate this behavior? To paraphrase the immortal George Costanza, would it be so wrong of me to smack the iPhone out their hand? I say no.

Anyway, this scene reminded me of similar ones 10-15 years ago when cell phones first appeared. Back then, people spent the entire night talking on their cell phones, not to the friends they were out with. With the ubiquity of smart phones, I fear society is about to repeat this annoying behavior. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I don’t think people had cell phones and texting in mind when they uttered this phrase, but it fits. So let’s take a little stroll back in time.

(Wait a second. Before I examine this troubling trend -- ubiquity. Impressed? Ever since I saw “ubiquitous” on my Word-A-Day Calendar three years ago, I have to use that word at least 3x/week. Even if I can’t pronounce it correctly. Ubiquitous).

Back in the ‘80s, cell phones were larger than Kim Kardashian’s ass. Seriously, have you seen non-airbrushed pictures of her rear end? It’s got more craters than the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. (Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.) Back then, cell phones were more flash than substance, just like Kardashian’s butt.

(Hold on a second. After I typed this blog post, I stumbled across a bunch of recent photos of Kardashian, including her Halloween “Princess Jasmine” costume. She looks lean and fantastic. The pictures didn’t show her booty, however. And with photo-shopping you can never tell how legit the pictures are. But I reserve the right to re-examine my previous comments about her rear…)

Gordon Gekko sat aboard his yacht and whispered into his cell phone, “Blue Horeshoe loves Andicott Steel.” (Maybe the scene didn’t play out EXACTLY like that, but this description works better for my blog post, and I’m not above bending the facts to fit my needs). Yuppies immediately sprinted from the movie theatre to buy their own phone, hoping to capture Gekko’s aura. Pretty soon, upscale clubs were full of douchebags walking around with suitcase-sized devices to their ears, pretending to be brokers. They really weren’t buying and selling stocks, of course. They just wanted people to think they were important. Their only accomplishment, however, was ignoring their companions. And looking like douchebags. Eventually the phones shrank in size (I don’t hold much hope for Kardashian’s butt) and cost, allowing the masses to buy cell phones, too. Poor manners were no longer limited to the sweater-vest and wine bar crowd.

Now, God forbid I morph into the Miss Manners of social etiquette, but proper usage of cell phones required a steep learning curve, made worse once people with IQs under 75 could afford them. At first, people talked non-stop on their cell phones, no matter where they were or whom they were with. Kids’ school functions. Restaurants. Sporting events. Who can forget the TV shots of people chirping away on the phone, oblivious to the game? But probably the worst experience, in my opinion, was grabbing a hung-over brunch at IHOP or Denny’s, and being forced to suffer through the cell phone conversation of a very loud redneck who just had to call Cooter and brag about the 5-point buck he just bagged, or the hot chick he just nailed who turned out to be his second-cousin. In my best Nancy Kerrigan voice, WHHHYYYY can’t I just eat my pancakes in quiet?

Folks didn’t care who they ignored or who they offended. Basically, they talked on their cell phones because they could and because they thought it made them look important. They were dead wrong; they just didn’t realize it. By using cell phones incessantly, the less affluent played catch-up with the douchebag-yuppies they openly mocked but secretly envied.

Let me share my cell phone epiphany. Back in the late 1990s I went to Happy Hour at a Tex-Mex place with a group of acquaintances. What can be happier than a Corona and chips/salsa? Nothing, I say. Well, I remember talking about sports and chicks – that’s pretty much the only thing guys talk about – and casually asked the guy a few seats down to pass the chips. I immediately resumed debating the virtues of Latinas vs. Asian women, truly the LeBron vs. Kobe debate of women. 5, 10 seconds elapsed before I realized the guy hadn’t passed the chips. I looked up and the bastard’s chatting away on his cell phone. I made eye-contact and gave him the look that says, “Hey buddy. Pass the chips already.” You know the look.

He appeared a bit dumfounded at my annoyance, and then he gave me a condescending look that says, “Um, can’t you see I’m a super-important guy on my cell phone?” You know that look, too. Then he spun around in his chair and turned his back to me. Apparently, a call in the middle of Happy Hour was so important that he couldn’t use his free hand to slide the chips down 3 feet.

15-20 minutes later – by this point I had calmed down enough such that I no longer wanted to dump the pico de gallo on him – I casually asked him who he was talking to (he didn’t realize that I was ticked off at him). He said, “Oh, a buddy got stuck working late and he was complaining about how he had to stick around until his boss left.” Somehow, speaking on a cell phone transformed this call into something so important that he couldn’t pass the f*cking chips and salsa. Bastard.

The common thread here? People ignored their companions. The phones gave them an inflated sense of self-importance. Their conversations – or, just the ability to hold a conversation – took precedence over the people standing next to them.

Grown-ups respond to new toys just like kids – they play with them non-stop until the novelty factor wears off. Just like Pac-man got old after the 12,063 time, cell phones did, too, and people eventually integrated them in a socially acceptable way. Everybody was much happier, especially the Verizon technicians who kept switching off cell phone towers because they thought it was funny to randomly drop calls. F*ckers.

Unfortunately, the smart phone crowd discarded the lessons learned during cell phone misuse. Maybe the current generation using smart phones never had to learn cell phone etiquette. Maybe people today just don’t care. Or maybe, just maybe, in the Facebook and Twitter era people like their friends a little bit less. Seriously, how many times have you looked across the table and saw a companion texting away instead of actually, you know, listening to what you were saying? If you’d rather text somebody else than talk with your companion, why go out with them in the first place? If your companion is so boring that you’d rather text somebody, just say so. You probably don't care about hurting his feelings.

(Exaggerated Al Gore sigh). Look, there are plenty of good reasons to text somebody or surf the web while out with others. I understand. Just don’t be one of those obnoxious pr*cks who texts while somebody else is talking to you.

And now I’ll step down from my soap box.

Two final thoughts: I’ve never read the Twilight books and don’t plan on seeing the movies. But the pasty Vampire guy? The James Dean lookalike? Robert Pattinson (I just looked up his name). He reminds me of those 90210 actors, guys who are 40 but play high schoolers. Except that without the sideburns and schlocky-ness, he seems creepy. If Pattinson ever appeared on 90210, he definitely would've date-raped Kelly. By the way, I loved watching 90210 and Melrose in college. I’d hit the bars immediately afterward with a happy face. Those shows always seemed to put me in a good mood. It's hard to top quarter beer nights after those shows.

And finally, Happy Thanksgiving. Remember, the mash potatoes make-or-break the meal…

Saturday, November 7, 2009

10-Month Update

Man, I never thought January and February would end. Shower seats. Toilet seat risers. 23 hours in bed. Sleepless nights. And now it’s November. You know what? I actually miss my toilet seat riser. Crapping that high is kind of empowering. Like driving an SUV. Alright, let’s check out how the knee’s doing today.

Walking around? No problem.

Stairs? Not completely normal, but no real issues. Sometimes I catch myself concentrating on my form, especially that first step.

Bending and squatting? Done cautiously, but capable. 1-legged squats are difficult once the knee bends beyond 60 degrees. At that point, the leg starts to quiver like a guy in the electric chair. The knee feels like it’s struggling to hold it together, like the First Wives Club at a Mathew McConaughey flick.

Surfing? Nope. Crossing my fingers I’ll be able to surf in Maui in May.

Lumberjacking? Not yet, but my chainsaw and flannel shirts are ready.

Kneeling and crawling? Difficult, but possible. It’s uncomfortable, not so much on the actual knee, but on the bone wedge when it brushes against the ground.

Running or jogging? No.

Pain? Not really, though I experience occasional twinges of discomfort on the inside part of my knee. The outside of my knee sometimes feels compressed, like an oversized object trying to squeeze through a smaller hole. (I’ve got several X-rated jokes ready to go, but decided to hold off). Also, the screws in my shin and the bone wedge from the osteotomy are sensitive.

10 months out, I still don’t know whether the surgery was “worth it.” It’s too early to tell. Keep in mind that my knee wasn’t in shambles at the time of the surgery, so I never experienced the debilitating moments some ACI patients suffered through. I decided to go under the knife before my knee rotted away. I’ll probably evaluate this decision every few months for the rest of my life. For my sanity, let’s hope I eventually reach the stage where I conclude the past 10 months – or however many months pass – was worth it.