Yesterday, I decided to spend the day without a cell phone in my hand. The people in my life who know me will tell you that wasn’t a big feat, I made a choice 5 years ago to get rid of my cell phone and I haven’t had one since. Yesterday was different, I was on my way into NYC for the day on my own and I was given a cell phone on loan in case I got lost.
It didn’t take long for the convenience of the cell phone to end up in my hand. As I made a phone call, I thought, “Wow! I forgot how awesome it was to have this easy convenience at my fingertips.” The bus ride into NYC was an hour of being reacquainted with this rectangle box that ultimately made me forget there is a world around me. I wandered from Times Square to Union Square, I was lost. Normally without a cell phone, I stop someone in the street and ask for directions but with my trusty rectangle box of solitude also known as the cell phone, I just turn on the GPS and Presto! I’m in Union Square.
I walked through Union Square not paying much attention because now that I had a way to play Candy Crush and walk at the same time, why wouldn’t I? I found a bench and sat down so consumed by the little black rectangle of solitude, that I had no idea how many people were in the park with me. Then I felt something jump on my foot. I startled because lets face it, in NYC it could be any number of things on my foot and in my mind I pictured a giant rat. When I looked up from my cell phone to see what it was, I was met by the friendliest squirrel I ever saw. There the courageous little gaffer stood on my foot looking up at me begging for food, I swear his tail wagged. When I saw him I yelped than laughed, Mr. Squirrel sat on my foot for what felt like a minute or two before he pranced off.
As I looked around the park, a haze seemed to have lifted almost instantly. The park and the people on the benches suddenly came into focus. There was a street band playing not far from me and street merchants selling their own creations that I somehow missed when I walked into the park. I decided in that moment to put the cell phone back in my purse and keep it there.
Here are the things I would have missed if I kept my face in my cell phone… I met a gentleman who was down on his luck named Luigi. A man of Spanish decent in his mid 50’s, who came over to speak with me because he thought I might like some company. If I hadn’t looked up from my little rectangle box I might not have noticed the twinkle of wisdom in his big brown eyes or been able to see past the grime on his face that he wore as a badge of his life on the streets. I likely would have only heard half the story about how he ended up there in the first place. Turns out by the time he left, I realized I did need some company and I was glad for the talk. Would you have put your little black rectangle away long enough to give this man a chance for conversation?
I found the kindness of strangers. I wandered up to several people who I thought were intimidating and asked for directions. Every one of them looked up from their devices and kindly gave me directions to where I needed to go. Take that GPS!
A handsome man held a door open for me as he was walking through it. When he looked over his shoulder at me he paused, did a double take then smiled. I smiled back. His beautiful Italian complexion, only marred by a mole under his left eye, made me stop in my tracks. I said, “Thank you.” He stood in the middle of a busy doorway at the Port Authority to ask, “How YOU doin’?”, in that Joey from Friends way. I giggled, slightly blushed and said, “Good, Thank you.” His perfect smile widened even more and it was one of those smiles that reaches the persons eyes. He finally moved through the doorway and carried on his way but not before giving me one last smile. Would you have looked up from your little black rectangle long enough to have noticed him at all?
These are all simple things I might have missed. Kindness, strangers, smiles, the affirmation that I still might have it and even squirrels but I can’t help but wonder what people miss everyday because they would rather be “social” with their little rectangle of solitude than with the world around them. Would you have noticed? Would you have taken the time to make real human connections no matter how small? Could you put your little black rectangle of solitude down even for one day to take the time to notice?
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking you don’t get lost in your own little black rectangle of solitude and if you think that, ask yourself… when is the last time you noticed a strangers smile? When is the last time you stopped to listen to someone else’s story just for the sake of their company? When was the last time you saw a squirrels tail wag? When was the last time you asked a person for directions? You might be surprised at what the world outside the little black rectangle has to offer once you put it down.
It’s Not Your Mom’s Forty; Your Mom never had a box of Solitude.