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I Wanted His Divided Attention

By Larry Gross · November 1st, 2012 · Living Out Loud
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My friend Chad broke his right leg a few weeks ago — fell off a ladder while cleaning out some leaves from his gutters on his house. It was a pretty nasty break. Chad was told he had to totally stay off his right leg for three or more weeks. No walking, not even on crutches. 

I found this all out from text messages Chad sent me. When he got settled in at home after the accident, he sent me numerous texts from his phone saying, “Come visit me. I’m bored!”

I know how to send text messages but seldom do. For me, it’s easier to talk with my mouth than play with my fingers. One sunny afternoon, I called Chad and told him I was coming over to visit him.

We both live here in Covington. Chad lives off of 12th Street. I live about four blocks away from his house, so it didn’t take me long to get there.

Chad’s door was open. His dog Dusty, a strange mix of German Sheppard and something else, greeted me at the door. I found Chad sitting in his living room. He looked up briefly to say “Hi,” but his eyes were mostly on his television set.

I looked at what he was watching as Chad’s cell phone chimed. I guess it was a text message. Moving his fingers rapidly, he answered it back quickly.

“Hey, is that Let’s Made a Deal?” I asked. “Is that thing still on?”

“Yeah,” Chad replied.

“Is Monty Hall still on it?”

“No, someone else,” Chad said.

I sat down in a chair next to him. Dusty wanted to be petted. He’s such a friendly dog. Chad was watching television when his cell phone chimed again and again I watched his fingers move quickly to reply to each message.

When Chad wasn’t texting or watching Let’s Make a Deal, I tried to engage him in conversation.

He was like he always is — and I had forgotten how he always is — distracted and not much of a talker.  

I continued to pet Dusty and watch television with Chad. Since he was so interested in this television show, I thought I would share a little Let’s Make a Deal trivia with him. 

“I remember that show from the ’60s,” I said. “Do you remember the name of the girl who used to point to all the prizes on the show?”

Chad stared at me.

“Her name was Carol Merrill,” I said. Chad continued to just stare.

“I have no idea why I still remember that,” I said, “kind of useless information.” Chad cell phone chimed again. Again, his fingers got busy.

Feeling defeated, I continued to pet Dusty and turned my attention to the television set and Let’s Make a Deal. Despite having a new host and model pointing to the prizes, I concluded it’s as stupid as it ever was. 

When the closing credits to the show started to roll, I got up from my chair and extended my right hand to Chad.

“It was good to see you,” I said.

“Where you going?” Chad asked. “You just got here!”

“I’ve got some errands to run,” I replied. “I’ll come back and visit again in a few days.”

Knowing full well I had no intention of visiting Chad again, I petted Dusty once more and made sure the door behind me was closed as I left. Maybe I had been at Chad’s all of 25 minutes.

I realize I’m old school, but if I had requested someone to visit me and when that someone arrived, I would have taking that remote and turned off the television. That silly game show would still be there the next day. Any text messages being sent to me could wait. If I had a person in front of me who I wanted to see and wanted to spend time with, I wouldn’t ignore that person. 

Maybe I didn’t want Chad’s undivided attention, but at least his divided attention. His dog Dusty was more engaging than my friend was. 

Chad isn’t the only person I know like this —all distracted and not engaged in what’s going on around them. I have too many friends who, as I’m trying to talk to them, are only half listening as they play with apps on their phone or are using their fingers to send text messages. Too many of my friends have forgotten how to look up or even notice my face. They’re too busy looking down at their damn phone.

New technology — hell, even old technology like a television set — leave too many people disinterested in real life. It’s easier to watch and play around with gadgets than to take part in the world around them. I don’t consider this progress. 

A few days ago, I got a new text message from Chad. 

“Hey, come visit me again before the snow starts to fly!”

I couldn’t help but wonder when that snow does fly if he’ll even notice. Maybe I’ll send him a text message just to let him know.

 
 
 
 

 

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