Friday, December 07, 2007


On the way home from work today, I saw something that I am sure is common today, but made me think back about my experiences several years ago. As this car passed me on the highway, you could see the dad in the front seat, chatting on the phone. In the back, you could see the daughter chatting away on her phone.

Now back in the Stone Ages (or ten years ago), when you rode in the car, you either brought material to entertain yourself with or actually speak with the people in the car. It made me wonder how many families don't use the time as a good time for discussions and insights to one another. It makes me think back to all the family road trips we took when I was younger.

We almost always left at night. My brother and my mother would fall asleep in the back, and I'd ride shotgun next to my dad since I was always wide awake. Sleeping in the car was not a skill I acquired until I met my husband. I would read the map and keep track of when our next exit would be, and Dad and I could talk about all sorts of things. It was a real bonding experience, and one activity of many we've enjoyed over the years. (Other than my teenage years, but that's another story for another time.)

What I expect happens most often now, is that each person is involved in their own activities, that they miss out on easy time with each other to build relationships. I worry what that does to families. Most often, on our rides to and from my parent's, Piper and I talk, sing, and sometimes enjoy the silence. If I have to make a call, it's most often to my husband, for less than a minute, to give him an ETA. Those rides are an easy time for bonding and I don't want to miss them. I mean, we're stuck in a car together for cryin' out loud!

Cell phones are handy, but I think people have gotten so caught up in being connected all the time, that they don't take the opportunity to be disconnected. Not to mention the risks in using your cell phone on the road. The other morning some college-aged kid was so busy texting that he forgot to drive, nearly sideswiping my car. That kind of stuff scares the crap out of me.

But the point I am trying to make is that if you are connected all the time, take some time to disconnect and see what it feels like to have that freedom again. Use that time that comes so easily to build relationships with those around you. After all, relationships are what life is about.


Arachne Jericho said...

Awesome post!

The only technological marvel I refuse to adopt these days is a cellphone. I just don't want people to always be able to contact me... however, cellphones are rather handy. It's just that even if you do get a cellphone just for outbound communications, people suddenly expect you to be available for inbound as well; it's not bad if they're sensible friends and family, but work will expect you to keep in touch. And then you can never really go on vacation.

I already have a pager that work pays for, after all...

TJWriter said...

And you know, I didn't add the flip side about when it's good to be connected, because there are times and places where that is a good thing.

And I've very rarely given my cell number to work. If they want to keep in touch that bad, they can foot the bill for a work only cell phone.

Pete said...

We have cell phones, and I like them for the reason you point out, Tori: Because when my wife's driving alone, or I'm walking alone, or we're driving somewhere in bad weather, I like to have at least some connection to the outside world.

The vast majority of the rest of the time, I can do without the phone. Silly expensive thing. I could get the same uses out of a small digital wristwatch.

In the car, my wife and I chat with each other. We talk about work, about books, movies, we play weird games ("Who would win in a fight? Mega Man, or Iron Man?" "Well, I don't know anything about either one, so I'll say Mega Man." "What!? Gimme a break!") (or the license plate game, "That one is KVR-853!" "Kids Veer Right!" "Damn, good one...")

Occasionally, we listen to audio books, or we yell at the radio.

A'course, I'm grumpy at the idea of kids having cell phones anyways. There is NOBODY at the age of 10, or 12, or 8, that you need to be calling and texting. Nuh-uh.

Mary B said...

AN excellent post! I never go anywhere without my cell, in large part because I drive long distances. But the beauty of a cell is that you can turn it off. I also don't have to answer just because it rings. I can check back later and see who called and if I want to return the call, I will.

But I agree wholeheartedly about cars being "family time." They make minivans and SUVs now with TV screens in the back for the kids to watch.

I refuse to own one. My husband always wonders as we buy a new vehicle if we should get one "just for long trips."

I'm firm in saying no to this. My kids get enough TV and movies at home. In the car, they can talk, aggravate one another, or play with toys. It's good to have some unplugged time.

Arachne Jericho said...

If I do get a cell phone -- and it's starting to look inevitable because of my new position at work, as well as the career path I want to take -- I want one that I can use for more than just telling the time and email. GPS/maps and music and games and a decent text editor and text input system so I can write, or dictation optionally. All those are available to outfit a lot of little cellphones... and then of course there's the iPhone which seems geared to this sort of multiple applicability kind of thing.

I guilt a lot about work. If I have a cellphone, I feel compelled to tell the company about it, because then it's a valuable resource for them. Just like I'm going to have to get a cellphone soon. I wish it could be an iPhone, or that new Googlephone that the Goog's have been tinkering with.

Midnight Muse said...

My sister and I have cell phones for the sole purpose of safety. I hardly ever use the dang thing, and togther we have yet to even use half the free minutes they give us every month. When I grew up, you needed to make a call, you found a phone booth.

Remember those? A call was fifteen cents.

Yes, I'm that old. And when my family went on vacation, we all piled into the station wagon, my two sisters and I riding in the back seat, and the way-back was filled with suitcases and a cooler. We talked, I daydreamed stories while watching the scenery go by, we played all the car games there are. We even had it down to a science when it came to one of us getting breakfast or snacks out of the cooler and passing them around while driving.

My dad was one of those Point A to Point B guys, and we girls were always on time. If dad said we were leaving at 6:00, we were in that car at six and it was leaving. We wouldn't stop unless several of us had to pee, so we learned how to entertian ourselves and each other, and eat on the go.

Another thing that bothers me are these commercials and other programs suggesting ways in which to gather the family together for one dinner a week.


In my childhood, dinner was dinner. It was everyone at the table, no TV or music was on, you listened to Mom and Dad talk about their day and share stuff that happened at school. There was never an option otherwise. Dinner was all 5 of us at the table. Period.

So so see these families who don't even eat together, or have three TV's on throughout the house so everyone can watch something while they eat - and not talk to anyone - just blows my mind.

Unplug, for cryin' out loud. And pick up a book while you're at it!


/rant :D

TJWriter said...

Thanks for responding, everyone!

I think most of us have the phones for the right reasons, but there are many who "would just die" if they didn't have their phone.

Take last night, for example. I left my phone at home. The two biggest things that happened? I missed the clock because I need a new watch, and I had to tell my mother that if she needed us for some reason regarding Piper that she would have to call the husband's phone. That's it.

We both drive a long haul, and I have Piper with me almost all the time, so if something should happen, then I want to be able to make a call. But other than that I don't use my phone much. In fact, we got into financial trouble a while back, so our account was closed, and I got a phone on my parent's account. I don't think I even make a dent in their plan.

Mary, I could see watching a movie or two on a long haul and as one of many vehicle activities, but not every day from A to B just because it keeps the kids quiet. Frankly, I would be far more interested in the mountain sunrises I saw as a kid than any program that could be on the player.

Kristine, on that dinner once a week thing, I know several families that are so busy no one connects to each other. They are always gone, giving their kids an "enriching" experience.

It's nuts in my opinion. Insane to be so busy that can't find time to eat together. We do sometimes watch TV while eating, but that is going the way of dodo as Piper gets bigger and can tell us about her day more.

Ed Pahule said...

We have cellphones, even my 12-year-old has a cellphone. We got it for him in case of emergencies or what have you, in case he's at school and a grandma forgot to pick him up. Otherwise he never uses it. I hardly ever use mine except to answer all my wife's calls. My phone is nothing more than an expensive clock, since I've never worn a wristwatch.

I see people holding all sorts of conversations on cells and I wonder what is so important that you have to talk to someone while waiting in line at McDonald's? Or in the car?

Heck, in the car we listen to music, or my wife. Or my 7-year-old interupting our conversations.

However, I am waiting for THE CALL. My cellphone number was listed on my partial submission and I'm hoping.