I need to rant a little today.
Carol recently told me of a commercial, actually a Public Service Announcement, she has seen several times. She was stunned, and I think you will be as well. The PSA starts by reminding us this is a hot time of the year, and goes on to tell us that the internal temperature of small children can rise five times faster than adults. As the narrator talks, you see a small child in the backseat of a car. As the video continues, the scene cuts to a man walking, who, as he walks, pats his cellphone case on his belt and realizes he doesn’t have it. He apparently remembers it must be in his car and returns to his car. His cellphone is there. So is his child, strapped into a child seat in the back seat of the car. All this is awful enough. Then comes the advice on how to avoid leaving your child in the car: put your cellphone in the backseat! The clear message is: you may forget your kid, but not your cellphone!
This is wrong on so many levels and I’m appalled at the sponsor’s belief that this is a good message to deliver to save kids lives. First, I’m pretty sure, given the number of people I see on their phones while they drive, noone is going to put the phone in the back seat and miss a call. Worse, with the phone in the back seat, as obsessed as we are with answering the damned thing, if it rang, the driver would likely try to retrieve it--which is probably far more dangerous than having it in the front with you.
But, of course, the most horrible message is that our cellphones and the connections we feel we must have at an almost continuous level, are more important than remembering you have parenting duty today!
I’m not anti-cellphone. I have one. I use it. When I wrecked my car a few years ago, having a cellphone made a big difference. However, I can turn it off or I can silence it at church, at the symphony, or while talking with friends at lunch. I don’t need to check it at intermissions or the moment something ends. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a call on it that was so important that I should rudely interrupt these kinds of places or events. How in the world did we ever get to the place where talking on the phone, checking emails, texting or taking photos is so important? Is this a message about how fundamentally isolated or alienated we each feel and how desperate we are for some kind of contact with others?
I remember during the CB radio craze in the 70s and early 80s, I likened the use of a CB radio while driving to our “new front porch.” In the neighborhood of my youth, people sat on their porches and greeted and/or visited with those who passed by. Since by the 70s, as a culture, we had moved from our front porches to our air conditioned dens, or our bedecked or patioed backyards, we lost that contact. It’s interesting to me, that about the same time the CB craze was returning to just truckers, cellphones emerged into our culture.
I also find it interesting that, at the same time cellphones and the internet became so accessible, the decline in the number of people who consider themselves religious and/or attend church accelerated. I wonder if there is a connection? Have we decided we no longer marvel at “what a friend we have in Jesus” because we have several hundred “friends” on our Facebook page? Is constant chatter on cellphones in the form of inane conversations and texts more fulfilling that conversations with God?
I don’t know. I know this, though. If your cellphone is so important you won’t forget it, but you might forget your kid, something is badly wrong.
*Text speak for “In my humble opinion,” for the less text literate of my readers.