Friday, January 20, 2012

The First Topic...of Three

There are three topics I wanted to address in our moving and oft prophetic blob, and I will, but they are just too much for one sitting. And so I will begin with a memory.

Jordan was a bit under the weather, and thinking about how far away she is, and my inability to be with her, took me back a long way. It is unclear to me whether this was something the female members of my family did, or it was something that happens in every family. But when we were kids (OK and adults), and we didn’t feel well, the first thing our mothers would do was to put their lips on our keppie’s (foreheads) and use them as a thermometer-- to see if we had a fever. There was hardly a time when they would use an actual instrument to measure the heat in our bodies. “Feh, what for,” they would say. They didn’t trust us to keep a thermometer in our mouths and we ardently refused to have one inserted in our ‘tuchas’. It’s funny, but whenever I’m out of sorts, I can still feel all those lips on my keppie. Hope my kids can as well.

The other day I was in a rush, but I needed to do some bank business and there was only one person in front of me. How long could it take, I thought. My answer came when 15 minutes later, the woman was still in line, but she wasn’t doing business. She was chatting with the teller like they were old friends. The conversation was not quiet so there were a few things that became apparent. 1. The teller had never seen her before and 2. The woman was lonely and had no where else to go. No place to be. No friends with whom she could converse.

Yes, the conversation was not only desperate it was embarrassing. The teller wanted this customer to move on, but that was not to be. At this point, rushed as I was, I couldn’t tear myself away. The woman was married with children. Her husband had disappeared years before and her children were never around. “They have their own lives,” she offered. She lived alone in a studio apartment which was rent controlled but she had no income anymore. She had been a secretary, but the older she got, the less interested the boss was in keeping her. There were minimal savings, no health insurance, and no possibilities for a future of any kind. It was very sad, but people were anxious to cash their checks, make deposits or argue about a charge with which they did not concur. What I realized was that, this was not the first time I had been in a line where a customer ahead of me, just wanted to talk to someone. And if they bought as little as a cup of coffee, they would have a captive audience – the server – until they were forced to move on.

I’m the type of person who talks to everyone. I’m friendly – good with people. David would say, “You think every person is just another person who you think needs to know you.” Don’t they? I think. (My kids are the same way—as is David, but he pretends the stranger makes the first move. ) Anyway, there has never been a time when I bared my soul to a stranger while in line at a Sonic, or Dunkin Donuts. But most of us have other ways to share our lives.

There was a time when people depended on their community (family, neighbors, business associates), to share concerns. But we have become a society which depends on anything but face-to-face communication for a relationship. Social media has nothing to do with being social. It is convenient and it is easy, but what have we lost by depending on it so heavily? Well for one thing, we no longer know what those lips feel like when we’re feverish or blue… and that feeling can not be replaced by an e-mail or a server at a fast food restaurant or even a bank. We’re just sayin’… Iris

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