The other afternoon, I was sitting in Dunkin' Donuts, working on my laptop while my daughter rode her horse about a mile away. (I've never been a big loyalty club member, but with all the time I spend in Dunkin' Donuts, I should be earning something. It's the closest WiFi to our stable, and I'm there ... well ... a lot.) There were four teenagers sitting at the table next to mine.
"Yeah," said one. "My brother's all over it now. But I didn't get a phone 'til I was eleven."
"He doesn't need it. I didn't get mine 'til I started travel soccer."
"I got mine when my mother forgot me at daycare."
The interesting thing was that as these teens were sipping their massive frozen coffee drinks and carrying on an enthusiastic (if rather shorthand) conversation, what were they doing?
Texting. Four teenagers, four smart phones. They never looked up, even as they spoke to each other. Maybe they weren't texting. Maybe they were SnapChatting, Instagramming, Tweeting. Who can keep track? Regardless ... they didn't miss a beat.
The last time I looked for a job (nearly two decades ago), I'm sure I presented myself as an effective "multitasker." And, in the adult scheme of things, I am one. But, by my daughter's standards? I am SO not. Anyone my age doing multiple things at once — we're talking amateur night compared to today's teenagers.
My daughter almost always (as in always, always, always) has her phone with her. The only times she doesn't is when she's actually riding her horse (never fear, it's close by in a pocket or on her tack trunk) or when she's asleep. And, the only reason we get away with that last one is because we made the rule years ago, when we were still in charge. Luckily, it was during her cell phone honeymoon phase when she would agree to anything.
We would never get away with it today.
My daughter's phone is more than a phone. It's an alarm clock. It's a camera. It's a reminder. It's a stereo and a record collection in one. It's a tool for homework. It's her connection to every friend she has, and — believe me — they expect her to be there pretty much 24/7. This makes it difficult to lay down many laws.
No phones at the dinner table?
"But, I'm waiting for so-and-so to get back to me about the English homework."
"But, whatshername is thinking about going to a different school; she needs me."
"But, the auction for the Imagine Dragons tickets ends in five minutes and I have to make sure I get them."
"But, but, but ..."
You see my point.
My daughter is an exceptionally gifted multitasker. But, it does rub us the wrong way sometimes. My husband finds it even more aggravating than I do; in fact, he's coined a term for the phenomenon. "FIP" meaning "face in phone." As in, "I asked her a question but she didn't answer; she was fipping."
I don't like it either, but I do understand. This morning, I left for my walk and realized, about a quarter of a mile away, that I'd left my phone. I had the most minuscule moment of panic; I honestly considered turning around. Then I decided to keep going. After all, it would be great to forget about emails and voicemails and just enjoy the beautiful morning. It snowed a bit yesterday, and our seaside town was still encrusted in sparking white.
I walked down to a small beach and suddenly saw two magnificent swans floating in the tide.
"Damn," I thought. "I wish I had my phone."
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