In a few minutes, we’re going out to eat with friends, to a local place that is known for great seafood. We’ll eat a lot, talk a lot, and, hopefully, ignore our cellphones.
But that last one – ignoring our cellphones -- is hard, isn’t it?
When did our phones become so essential? Maybe the better question is, why did they become so essential? It’s easy enough to make fun of that group of kids you see at Taco Bell with their noses glued to their phones, but I have to use every bit of willpower to not be just like them.
I’m at my worst when it’s just Robin and me. Say we’re going someplace. A song comes on the radio, maybe Rupert Holmes’ Escape – The Pina Colada Song. Robin, who is driving, might ask, “Did he ever sing anything else?” Boom! Just like that, I’m surfing the web to find out. Yes, by the way, just so you don’t have to look this up yourself, Rupert Holmes’ other Top 40 hits were Him and Answering Machine.
It never stops. We drive past a house with a For Sale sign out front and I’m looking up the details. We’re not even looking to buy a house. Earlier today, I thought of Gene Rayburn, the host of the 1960’s and ‘70’s TV show, Match Game. Is he still alive? Ten seconds later, I knew that he passed away in 1999 from congestive heart failure. R.I.P. Gene.
My smart phone has made me the world’s most inquisitive person. And also one of the rudest. I’ll try hard not to whip it out during dinner, but if our friends want to know how many calories there are in shrimp tacos or when the next high tide is in the Gulf of Mexico, I’ll have to find out for them. That’s my job.
“No school today.”
People in two of the three parts of the country where I’ve spent my life heard those three words this week.
“Dorchester County, Maryland… no school today.”
“Kansas City, Missouri… no school today.”
And here in Bradenton, Florida… well, it’s seventy and sunny, but I didn’t come here to rub it in.
No. School. Today.
Admit it, if you grew up in an area where it snows, those three words trigger something inside you. The little kid in you surfaces, if only for a moment. It’s there.
When I was a kid, we got news of school closings on WCEM radio from their long-time morning announcer, “Curly in the Early” (the inspiration for the radio station owner in my book, The Resurrection of Hucklebuck Jones). For a while, I thought Curly was the person actually in charge of making the decision, never dreaming that someday I’d be that person.
And what did we do when we found out? Go back to bed? No siree. We would pile on the layers and head outside. Galestown, Maryland’s population was 120, and it seemed half were kids. The best snow days were when Galestown’s millpond froze over enough to skate. When the ice was especially thick, our fathers would build a roaring fire to keep everyone warm while they skated (yes, fire on the ice). There could be dozens of people there on any given night. Kids skated. Parents visited. Dogs sniffed.
Fast-forward to college. It was rare for Western Kentucky University to cancel classes, but when they did, look out. Western’s sports teams are the Hilltoppers, and they’re not called that for nothing. The campus is situated 250 feet above the rest of the city. Have you ever sledded down a 250-foot hill with a couple thousand of your best friends? In the dark? On a lunch tray? I broke a tooth during the winter of 1980 doing just that.