It’s funny how quickly people become accustomed to new technology. For instance I remember the first time I saw someone using a hands-free phone. Or rather heard. Or rather heard and saw. It was at an airport and there was a woman sitting by the window. At first I thought she was talking to herself, which is fine–I think we all talk to ourselves even if we don’t usually do it out loud. But then I noticed she was giving pretty detailed instructions, and it sounded like she was giving them to another person. It definitely sounded like a conversation, even though it sounded like she wasn’t giving the other person much of a chance to get a word in. She was holding up her end and most of theirs. She was also gesturing a lot which I can understand. I like to gesture when I’m talking too and in fact a good way to get me to shut up is to tie up my hands, but that’s another story. Now I’ll confess that I don’t like eavesdropping. I love eavesdropping. I’m interested in other peoples’ stories and listening in is a pretty good way to hear them, but I also know it’s rude, so I try to avoid it. However when someone is at the same gate of an airport as you and practically yelling instructions it’s hard not to pick up on it. And in fairness to her it was clear she worked for some kind of charitable organization so that was good. Now I might put in my earbuds and turn on some music or a podcast because, thanks to smartphones, a lot of us carry miniature computers in our pockets at all times, but I didn’t even have a cell phone at the time or, if I did, it was one of those flip phones that was only good for making calls and could barely handle that. Anyway the woman turned at one point and I could see she had a wire dangling from her ear and it was plugged into a cell phone, and that confirmed what I’d already suspected: there was new technology available that allowed people to talk on their phones without having to hold the phone up to their ear which, to me, has always been the worst part of talking on the phone: my ear always gets hot and sweaty and back in the days of landlines and pay phones, well, you didn’t know whose ear had been pressed up against the receiver before yours.
Anyway I thought about all this the other day when I was standing at the bus stop and, as usual, the sign that said the bus would be arriving in three minutes had been stuck on that for about three hours, and I started commenting on the ridiculousness of the Nashville bus system. I’m sure that I used more than a few colorful metaphors and even some outright swear words, gesturing wildly the whole time. I was talking to myself, although my comments were addressed to the brains, or lack of them, behind local public transit, so it might have sounded to the casual listener like I was engaged in a mostly one-way conversation. And then I turned around and there was an older woman standing a few feet away from me. Needless to say I felt pretty embarrassed and I hoped she hadn’t heard most of what she said or that, if she did, she was charitable enough to be understanding. As it is I was too embarrassed to say anything and just stuck my earbuds in and turned on a podcast.