Medicare Fraud
Off the Hook

Why Death is Important to the Future

Pardon me today, while I do some long-winded thinking out loud.

Certainly by now, you have been annoyed, as I have many times when, with a friend at home or a restaurant or anywhere, he or she interrupts in mid-sentence (and mid-thought) saying, “Excuse me, I need to take this,” and then turns away – or even walks away – to speak with someone else on a cell phone.

”Recently, for example, Sam Ashton, a 23-year-old Stanford University computer science graduate and the founder of Loopt, a pioneering friend-finding service, was having dinner in Palo Alto, Calif., when he noticed from the screen on his phone that his freshman college roommate was having dinner just two restaurants away. The two met after dinner at a bar, where they were joined by another former Stanford student who noticed on his display that they were socializing together.”
- The New York Times, 16 February 2009

“NOTICED ON HIS PHONE??? It’s happened many times and I can picture it easily: just as I’m getting to the punch line of a funny incident that happened yesterday, for example, I realize my dinner companion, looking at her cell phone and texting, has consigned me to background noise and is no longer listening.

Mostly (but not always) in my case, it is much younger friends – those who have hardly known life without constantly being tethered by an invisible electronic cord to hundreds of others who are allowed, encouraged even, to be in constant contact. It is about to get worse:

As John Markoff, writing in that Times piece, explained, it is no longer only voice calls and texting that distract people from the here and now. Added to the mix is the emerging “map metaphor” for cell phones (which have become, for young people, life itself). Google has recently launched a service named Latitude that tracks friends’ locations on your cell phone and alerts you to their proximity including a handy map – which has other uses too:

”Indeed, a new generation of smartphones like the G1, with Android software developed by Google, and a range of Japanese phones now ‘augment’ reality by painting a map over a phone-screen image of the user’s surroundings produced by the phone’s camera...

“For starters, map-based cellphones simply translate paper maps into a digital medium, but future systems will probably begin to blur the boundaries between the display and the real world...

“Increasingly, phones will allow users to look at an image of what is around them. You could be surrounded by skyscrapers but have an immediate reference map showing your destination and features of the landscape, along with your progress in real time.

One of the people Markoff interviewed for his story asks, “How long will it be before you come out of the subway and you hold up your screen to get a better view of what you’re looking at in the physical world?”

Personally, I prefer to read street signs and look at what’s around me. That method has served me well in dozens of cities I’ve visited, even when the street signs are in another language.

But the world is changing and I suspect elders, certainly this one, will not – or not quickly enough to be part of the emerging mainstream. I don't remember to take my cell phone with me much of the time, let alone use it for anything but talking.

Part of the difference is that those of us who are old don’t need all this friend tracking. We generally don’t spend our evenings looking for love in all the wrong places anymore and are less likely to perhaps cut a dinner short to meet other friends for a drink. But as the kids grow up they will adapt these technologies and the behaviors that go with them to their adult and professional lives. What is rude in the world elders have lived in is becoming acceptable and commonplace – a normal part of the social landscape.

I think it was Carl Jung who said, “If you don’t move life, life will move you.” He was speaking of our personal lives, but it applies on the macro scale too. Like it or not, life hurtles on, there is no stopping it and with that forward movement come new beliefs, new attitudes, new ideas of what is right and wrong, new social mores and behavior.

It doesn’t seem so long ago to me that a slip showing below a skirt hem was cause for blushing. Nowadays, no one wears slips and bra straps are a fashion item. No matter how hard I try, I continue to be startled when I hear the word “gangbanger,” in reference to certain young men; it still means group rape to me. And once upon a time, I could watch a play or movie in silence. Today, theater managers are widely ignored when they plead with audiences to turn off their cell phones. Soon they will give up pleading and dinging phones and whispered (or loud) conversation will be as much a part of the theater experience as they are on trains.

There are four billion cell phones in the world and the social momentum is on their side involving constant ring tone interruptions and more interaction with tiny screens than with the people in the room. I have learned that such a request as, “Do you think you could turn that off for the hour-and-a-half we’re here at dinner?” is a retro social faux pas of those who, like me, are out of touch in more ways than one.

Which is the reason - and what advocates of longevity research miss - we must all die in a reasonable number of decades because if the old folks don’t get out of the way, they will impede the future.

If I, at nearly 68, am annoyed by friends who still refuse to use email, and by local service providers who have not converted to electronic billing, certainly my young friends are irritated (but sweetly too polite to mention) that I almost never have my cell phone with me and sometimes miss voicemail messages for days because I don’t hear the beep from a coat pocket in the closet where it is likely to be out of juice anyway.

Oddly (to me, but not them), young people appear not to be distracted and in fact, welcome cell phone calls, texts and soon, announcements of friends’ proximity. I would prefer to enjoy the moment uninterrupted, but there is never any going back.

While the past can and should instruct the future, it is young people who will and should decide how; it will be their world, not ours. Just as we discarded some of the habits, behaviors and ideas of our parents’ generation, so must they. And it is our job, when our time comes, to “shuffle off this mortal coil” to make room for our children’s and grandchildren’s future. Mother Nature has wisely decreed it so and we elders would be wise too, to make our peace with it.

However, I am certain that until my dying day, I will be annoyed by cell phone interruptions.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, A. Peri recalls The Little English Cottage of her childhood.]


I'm with you on cell phone interruptions, although I suppose I've been guilty of same on occasion. To be fair, my calls are rare and even more rarely conversational. They tend to be from my husband, who would not call anyone without a specific reason, my son when he's traveling, or doctors or something along those lines. We stopped being big telephone conversationalists years ago. For me it was around the time that e-mail emerged as an alternative. I can't imagine that I'd enjoyed being stalked by friends who happen to be in the same neighborhood either. That just doesn't sound appealing. On the other hand, I can no longer imagine life without the convenience of the cell phone. One thing that's interesting to me is that person who is most likely to decide he can ignore a call we're visiting in person is my son, who has lived his whole adult life with cell phones. It's ring doesn't automatically signal, "Emergency" to him.

There's no doubt that there's a whole new world with new etiquette and new social conventions - not to mention too many apostrophes - out there. I think that many elders are adapting at the rate that's right for them, but you're right. Eventually we have to move on and make room.

You have stated it so well. It is all about balance. I'm frustrated by those who won't connect to the 21st century and I'm frustrated by those who are already reaching for the 22nd.

I'm hoping that since I'm just slightly ahead of the 'Boomers', (I'm 68)that they will add some critical mass as they age and that they too will begin to dislike cell phones, etc, etc.

I was quite a geek when I was employed, but now that I'm retired...not so geeky. I think that's normal.

Two years ago, when I bought my first cell phone, I got (and still have) a Treo--so I would not have to carry a cell phone and a PDA (I have an IPAQ). I did not, however, subscribe to the internet service for it.

Immediately, the Red Cross sent me to Chicago. Emerging from the underground, having for the first time in my life taken the subway from the airport, into a world of grey and freezing rain/snow, I had no clue which direction was what. As construction had forced me to exit at a different stop than the one in the directions I had been given to my hotel, I was at a loss. It really would have been nice to have called up Mapquest to learn how to get from that intersection to my hotel.

As it was, I walked (trailing my luggage behind me) an extra couple of miles in the snow and slush because I kept getting conflicting directions from the people around me.

BTW: I am one of those people who has turned off the GPS service on her phone--except for 911 calls.

Cell phones - best used for emergencies and within reason for other calls.

Talking/texting while dining with a friend - outright rudeness. A quick reply to say I'll call back later would be acceptable but texting while I am talking - I'd rather stay home.

I cringe when I am at the bookstore and several folks are on their phones. Ditto for the supermarket - ditto for any public gathering place.

I know it is "the generations" way and while "our generation" had its way I do not agree that being on a cellphone almost all of the time known as "free time" and even then some is a way of life I would be interested in. When do they read a book - when do they "just sit with a friend" - oh yes, I do see some at the bookstore who sit with their friends who all watch the cellphones to see who may be calling. Fortunately, most calls are short and all that happens is more friends show up at the bookstore cafe with cell phones.

Or - how about clothing shopping and trying on a pair of shoes in a high-end store to listen to a teenager asking a friend what she thinks of the shoes?

There are enough good reasons to have a cell and to use it wisely - however, I don't think we send out a message to our future generations that rude behavior is acceptable and that a "live person" in front of you is less important than a text message.

My "cellphone" - they are mobiles in the UK - gets no signal at home, so it is only brought out for trips to town etc. I don't think I could cope with the constant intrusion otherwise.

My husband and I were out to dinner recently at a very nice restaurant. NOT Le Bec Fin, but still very nice.

Across from us sat a lovely young couple and they were whispering sweet things to each other and enjoying being together.

I noticed when she went to the Ladies Room he quickly called the waiter over and they had a very conspiratorial conversation. So, something BIG was up. When she returned ,he stood up and I could see a small box on his seat. A ring box!

Time now for dessert and ,I think, the proposal. The waiter brought a small cake and a bottle of champagne and the young man reached behind on his chair and picked up the ring box.

At this point,her cell phone rang and,believe it or not, she answered it. She not only answered it, she spoke to the caller for at least 5 minutes which was a lifetime in this situation.

When she finally hung up, the proposal took place, but something had gone out of the moment and SHE knew it.

She will never get that time back that she wasted on some unimportant call.

You could ask your younger friends to turn off their phones. Yes, I agree with you....and I don't miss that life at all, she says turning off her phone.

I am 74, and my husband is 85.
We see the speed at which our world is changing and are comforted by the knowledge that we do not have to keep up.
In fact we are delighted that 'we get to die' and get off this treadmill of technology.
We have had our turn, it was fun while it lasted, and continues to be a sweet peaceful retirement, but when my turn comes to answer death's knock on the door I will joyously answer. I've heard so much about it [death] that I'm dying to find out what happens next.
Suppose life is, after all, just a vacation from death...

Gosh -- I read those same NYT articles yesterday and had almost identical thoughts...

Then, last night, I download an application for my iPhone (acquired for me by an employer) which looks up my position using the GPS and then draws me a map of the nearest free WiFi hotspots. I was thrilled.

I'm seven years younger than Ronni, still all too employed, and have a foot in several worlds at once. This is probably quite normal for some.

Cell phones are good for a lot of things. They have changed the world. I write fiction and when I edit a story written only 10 years ago (hoping to improve it enough to sell it), there weren't cell phones and now a lot of those situations have to be changed if I want the story to be current. It's hard to believe how different it really is to have that connection most places you go-- although the farm does not have cell phone coverage.

My husband uses his for business and it is very handy for him but mine only gets used when on a trip and needing to stay connected to home or find out if a motel down the road has reservations. At home it stays in my purse, I forget about it, go somewhere and the battery is run down. Your article reminded me to charge it.

I think being rude is still a 'no-no' for all generations. I don't care what new technology comes up, to interrupt someone when they are talking is not only thoughtless, but inexcusable. And to treat strangers close to you with indifference by loudly airing your conversation one a cell phone is inconsiderate.

Manners count because they allow people to live together in harmony. They are the glue that keeps us civil.

Ronni, since technology, bolstered by interminable ads, creates the need, the young (who stay younger longer these days) have not yet reached a confidence level to be different. Remember, in our youth, when we celebrated non-conformity? The new technology should not include the loss of civility. While I wouldn't ignore the new mores brought about by new tech, I would encourage those who use it to be mindful of manners.
Recently, in an hourlong drive with my grandson, he whipped out his Gameboy. I squelched the idea.
"Why," he exclaimed. "Because I need you to be present."
P.S. All that GPS stuff is creepy!

Ugh, I'm 27 and that NY Times article makes me sick. I am a software engineer and I do not even know how to send a text message on my cell phone (and I think it would cost me extra). Yes, I like having a cell phone for safety and sometimes convenience. There have been situations where it would have been a lot less convenient without it. But I agree with Darlene, that rude is rude. How is it acceptable to be texting when someone is talking to you? I question whether people are really adding value to their lives by being so immersed in their cell phones and social networking sites. I was in a training class over the weekend and the woman next to me was doing things on her blackberry a large part of the time. I don't see how that was beneficial to her - she couldn't possibly have been giving full attention to the class (which, in my opinion, was well worth giving full attention to) - and she was paying to be there!

I have thought about the question of technology as progress quite a bit and I wrote two blog posts on this subject a few weeks ago, Is technology progress? and Humanitarian technology?. I do not believe that just because we invent all these new technologies that they are automatically a positive thing. We need to look at whether they truly enhance our quality of life.

I don't think older people should necessarily simply step aside and make way for the new technologies. Certainly there may be things that are just different in a younger generation that do have positive aspects. But older people have the perspective of experience to evaluate whether something is indeed progress or not, and I think this is a valuable thing to contribute (especially if it can be done in a non-preachy way).

I agree wholeheartedly ... the cycle of life needs death. However, life and living require a certain amount of courtesy and respect for each other. And even though I love all the modern new technology and use every bit of it that I can get my hands on, I still abhore discourtesy. Somehow people have to learn to combine one with the other in a delicate balance in order to maintain some form of civil behavior. I think this is humanity's only defense against chaos.

I got a glittery pink cell phone to keep me road worthy as I live in a remote town in SW WA State. Once out of town there are great stretches of nothing. At 67 I no longer want to walk off from a malfunctioning car so my cell and a road service keeps me from having to trudge in the heat or cold or change tires . It does have a camera which I've used to take pictures of my grandkids and store as screensavers, I guess I could take pictures with it in case of an accident. But why I thought I needed so much phone escapes me. I hardly use it except when traveling. I didn't sign up for the email or internet or texting services. Don't want them. My house phones, one of which is old style and worked when the power went out and nothing else did, cell or cordless. My peeve is people loudly, really loudly, talking in line in stores. I can't avoid all that personal stuff they are broadcasting. On my way to being an antique, hope to go out with a highly polished patina.

I am back in the land of cell phone heaven (hell) where most of the technology was born! Israeli companies (Amdocs, Comverse, Nice Systems) pioneered voice mail, SMS, and other cell phone services. Israeli company TransChip developed the first high-resolution camera that fits on a single electronic chip, for use in cell phones. The technology for AOL Instant Messenger was developed by a team of four young Israelis. And so it goes. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah;-) Hey, even I have one here though wouldn't dream of being owned by one in my other home, "over there." Love your topics, writing, blog community!

You went to the mr. kenju school of cell phone use. He leaves his off and on his dresser all the time. But God forbid that I am unavailable, or do not hear mine ring! Somehow he thinks my cell phone is for his convenience - and his is not!

Personally, I think rude is rude, whatever the generation. When you are visiting with someone, in person, it is just rude when that person spends the time texting someone else, or engaging in long conversations on the cell phone. Just because it rings doesn't mean you have to answer it. I feel the same way about "call waiting", when the person I'm talking to on the phone puts me on hold while he/she converses with someone else. Nobody likes to feel less important than others, and that's the way I feel when I'm shunted aside so the person I'm with can talk to someone else.

I totally appreciate Crabby's concerns -- and I don't even have a cell phone. I guess if I want to grow old gracefully, as I hope to do,I will be forced to move into the 21st century.

I have another, perhaps more serious, concern with cell phone users-- their insistance on constantly checking messges or texting during meetings, implying that the discussion or ideas being advanced in that forum are less important than a private communication from others.

To me it's just plain rude!

I swear, you can evidently read my mind in the finest of detail and then express my thoughts 100 times more eloquently than I ever could...

a lot of that texting comes from those new programs...wot? facebook? plurk? the ones where you write down wot you are doing RIGHT NOW and where and with whom. zzzzzzz.....

i think the woman who answered her cell phone in mid-proposal will not be married to that guy for long. talk about a subliminal message!

I hate it when people talk constantly during a movie. I've asked people to 'please be quiet' and I've also asked a woman who was receiving her 2nd phone call to 'please turn it off'. Both times they obliged.

Ahh! yes, technology. We love it, we hate it. I have to say the benefits out weigh the negative. People please be polite, let it go to voice mail, or read the text later.

Cathy Warren

You've touched on one of my pet peeves, Ronni. I am horrified by the thought of being connected to others, and thus responsible for responding to them, as a normal part of my day. Just as my students are horrified by the prospect of not being connected for even a nanosecond. It definitely is a different weltanschauung.

The thing that irritates the *beep* out of me, is cell phone nattering on the downtown bus.

When someone gets on behind me and yaks it up in a Pavarotti on crack voice, along with a multitude of inane chattering passengers, I want to to drop kick them out the nearest window.

Who needs to hear the intimate details of someone's life? Some people either have no shame, or they truly believe they are on a talk show.

So I bought an mp3 player and plug it in my ears as soon as my butt hits the seat. You haven't heard anything until you hear the "Doors" singing "LA Woman" while the bus rocks you all the way into the city.

Better than hearing the whole 20 chapters of "why I dumped my boyfriend."

My other peeve is when I go to the library to read, and my bliss is interrupted by screaming kids, brought in by moms who ignore the rules. Moms who stroll the stacks oblivious to the din created by their little darlings.

A senior man got a big lecture from the librarian because his cell phone rang unexpectedly in the library, but his phone sounded like a lullaby compared to the shrieking kid riot in the room.

Go figure.

Betty expressed my attitude completely. I, too, resent being put on hold because of "call waiting," especially when the person called me in the first place and wants to continue our conversation. I don't mind when there is good reason for doing so, that they usually quickly explain, or tell me in advance they're waiting for a call. Then, they either put the other party on hold, or call one or the other of us back again. My friends and family all know how I feel about it, so we're all easy with the situation.

I'm a strong believer in putting our cards on the table. There's nothing worse than unspoken irritations, or one or the other parties making assumptions about another without checking it out.

It really comes down to who's in charge, the person or the technology? Years ago before answering machines I had an "aha" moment with the telephone, when I concluded that if it was inconvenient for me to get to my ringing phone, why break my neck answering the ring. If the call was important, they would call back. Eventually, I think some of these cell phone, text messengers will come to their senses as the novelty wears off, and they, too, get tired of constant interruptions.

As for GPS and knowing where others are and vice versa, I hope the GPS system has an off button. I think there are situations where I would be pleased to turn mine on, but generally speaking I would prefer having some control over just who can turn up when and where. I know I wouldn't be spending my time tracking someone's where abouts, and I don't think anyone I know would be doing that with me either. Maybe this is just something for the single young kids. Already, I'm aware of it creating problems for teenagers who might be just as happy to not have a certain person show up, or that person finds out a group was together, but they hadn't been told. Oh, I can think of some great problem situations for the older single set, etc.

I don't care what generation it is, this has nothing to do with etiquette or social mores changing. It does communicate loudly and clearly exactly where the person being ignored for some other attraction -- texting, cell phone, etc. -- ranks in importance with the person who strays from the interaction. Emergencies of a serious nature and a few other situations could be the exception for taking a call or sending a message, but that's all. I think the person being subjected to that treatment should kindly express their unhappiness with the situation, make it clear before another get together occurs the wish to not have such interruptions as previously, or simply not be involved with that inconsiderate person again. It is obvious they don't really value your company very much, seems to me. I think we all know that if we're truly interested in something or someone, we give it or them our attention in precedence over some other less important things or people -- and a phone call from another or sending someone a text message doesn't strike me as being of greater importance in most instances. It's just that simple.

It's really not much different than any other kind of interaction. If someone doesn't occasionally make time to focus attention on you -- and certainly in a one-to-one face-to-face situation -- over time the message is loud and clear you really don't matter in their life compared to other people and activities.

Guess so far I'm lucky that live theatre experiences and movie theaters requests to turn off cell phones have been honored by all where I've been. That said, I'm guilty of having forgotten to turn my cell phone off and I received an unexpected call in a class one night, much to my embarrassment. Am amazed though at some of the highly personal and intimate nature of some cell phone conversations at high loudness level I've heard in stores, check out lanes, and other public places. Guess they figure anyone overhearing doesn't matter since we're all strangers.

You've expressed the irony of our world well. I'm annoyed by the same things--friends who don't use e-mail, and kids who text all through dinner. Whatever technology I have accepted seems acceptable, and the stuff I don't need seems unnecessary. I have become my own grandma!

I love this entry and share your annoyances. I'm hoping it will make my departure a bit easier when I finally decide that I'm completely out of synch with the living.

There is a time to be born and a time to die and a time to love technology and a time to leave it. I am with liloldme - I like my quiet life now and have no interest in all the gadgets of today. My cell phone is still a mystery to me - but I can call my nearest and dearest if need be. Just let me make it "healthy" through whatever years I have left...let me pass quietly into the Olam Haba - the next world. (maybe I'll take my cell phone there - if I ever learn how to use it)

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