It's All My Fault



The elevator door slides open and before I enter I know the scene playing out inside. There is silence, which upon entering, I brazenly break by boosting a cheery "Good Morning!" Six attractive heads slowly rise to measure the cause of interruption. Some grunt a response; others ignore me and return their focus to their iPhones.

This tableau is all my fault. I take full responsibility because in 2011, I was an Apple "specialist," an experience I dubbed, "The Oldest Living Salesperson at the Apple Store." If you would have been a customer there in Skokie, IL, you might have sidestepped me to speak to a younger tech. I wouldn't have been offended because I'd often sidle up to the kids for confirmation of a solution I had just offered to a frazzled walk-in.

At the time and currently (I wear an IWatch, listen to podcasts on Earbuds, read books on an iPad, and type this on a MacBook Air), I am obsessed with Apple products. But that hasn't stopped me from becoming disappointed that the iPhone   has nullified greetings and conversations.

My building's elevator is not the only locale where eyeballs glued to iPhones goad me; the dog park is another. Before I adopted Doris, my 1-1/2 year old Terrier/Jack Russell Mix from PAWS, I would walk to a nearby dog park at 4 p.m. to watch the varieties romp. 

 Many furry heads found their way to my bench and my knees to offer a grin and wagging tail as I stroked and massaged. Often, I was gifted with a gummy tennis ball dropped on my lap. I submitted and sent it sliding down the cement as if I were bowling. (The dogs and I found this move fares further than my pathetic overhand pitch.)

The pooches would bypass their owners, or professional dog walkers, because those caregivers were cemented to their phones. And as someone who delights in all aspects of pooch partnership, this scenario saddened me.

Near the dog park is a children's' playground equipped with imaginative swings, climbing apparatus, slides, and teeter-totters. My least favorite view is a babe strapped in a swing, the mother or nanny absent-mindedly patting the seat and the kid seeking a face behind the blocking phone.

Bus rides are no longer as much fun as they were pre-phone. Remember when a spontaneous chat with a seatmate evolved into a heart-to-heart? Alas now, passengers load with phone in hand, fumble their way to their seats, and elbow-jab you as they thumb-thumb away.

With all of this boorishness, I confess that I loved every day I worked at the Apple store. My much younger coworkers were as kind to me as if I were their grandmother. I loved the Apple credo, which I memorized and repeated each day as I gowned myself in their logo T-shirt. I loved talking to the customers; many of them seniors who needed convincing that if I could learn the device, so could they. 

I loved the morning meetings where new products were introduced and our team -- spread among chairs, walls, and floors -- oohed and aahed as if we were viewing the Hope Diamond. I loved the feeling as I gently lifted from its perfect box an iPhone and presenting it to the purchaser as if it was their first-born. 

 I loved when friends my age -- 73 at the time -- would come to the store and witness me in the middle of the tumult. "How can you stand the noise?" one asked. "What noise?" I answered. To me, the voices of humans and sounds of computers melded into a symphony.

Alas, because my husband (second) was suffering from an illness that demanded my attention, I left Apple after the Christmas season. My affection for their products never paled. Afterwards, I offered lessons to seniors at the Chicago Cultural Center, taught others through private sessions, and, I continue to be the go-to person for my breakfast friends.

So, how do I reconcile my part in the proliferation of iPhone and their faults, where I find myself as devoted and blinded as a Jim Jones follower? Instead, I focus on the virtues of the Phone; such as calling 911 in an emergency, summoning a Lyft or Uber when you're older and carless, using weather apps to urge an umbrella, and turning to Google to learn if the latest pains means a visit to the ER, or a Tums.