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“Sorry do you have the time? “

By Serene Hajjar,

I found myself in a predicament I hadn’t been in for quite a while, or ever for that matter. I was waiting for a bus, with a dead phone, and needed to know the time. I found myself feeling extremely foolish having to ask a stranger what the time was, although the act in itself wasn’t necessarily embarrassing, it somehow felt silly and out of place, I mean who these days didn’t carry some sort of gadget that allowed you to tell the time. To add to my sense of foolishness my brand new, extremely expensive, Marc Jacobs watch, proved to be completely useless. I’d told myself that I didn’t need to set it to the right time; because “Who wears watches to tell the time these days, it just looks pretty’”. Indeed I’d bought the watch with the sole intention of wearing it as an accessory, although I was regretting that decision now. Pulling my sleeves over my wrists, to avoid the awkward “But you’re wearing a watch?” question, I approached a school- girl sitting next to me. The words “Sorry, do you have the time?” felt old fashioned and ridiculous coming out of my mouth. Like I was a damsel in distress, in a 1950’s Hollywood movie. To my utter shock and disappointment, this girl, was also coincidentally left gadget-less, her phone dead, no iPod, laptop or anything of the sort, although she was not sporting a brand new, useless, $300 watch. We both stared at each other and for a second and I honestly started to panic, “So how do we know when the bus comes?” I asked, “Don’t know,” She said shrugging indifferently. She then places her obviously music-less headphones in her ears, as if to say, “I really wish I was listening to music right now instead of talking to you”.  Sitting down next to her feeling lost and even a little bit scared, I found myself also wishing I had my phone to aimlessly scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and kill time while waiting for this bus, that, for all I knew, might not ever come, and that’s when it dawned on me. Two people, with nothing to do, waiting for a bus, and instead of talking to kill time we stare aimlessly into space? Is that really how disjointed we are from the people around us? Have our gadgets made us that bad at actually living and interacting in the real world, that without them we lack the capacity to even function? I suddenly felt so ridiculous; surely I was capable of making simple conversation with a stranger. I glanced at the girl awkwardly, thinking of something to spark conversation, only to find her examining her reflection in her blank phone screen, which she had apparently found a new use for, which then triggered even more thoughts of a more hostile nature. “Wow I cannot believe her phone is dead yet she is still staring at it, stupid-self-obsessed teenager” which was then followed by: “My god, our generation is doomed” How sad, I thought to myself, if we’re not obsessing over the people talking to us on our phones we’re obsessing over ourselves, and the people sitting right next to us become invisible. Almost laughing at my self for getting all-philosophical about something so trivial, I nevertheless let my thoughts wonder even further. Sure, I’m just a random person sitting at a bus stop, but who knows what interesting conversations, people, and experiences we could be missing out on when we block out the world with our headphones and glue our eyes to a screen whenever we are in the presence of strangers. I tried to stop myself, as I was beginning to sound like my mum, constantly whinging about my so-called addiction to technology, only to find that I couldn’t help it, the thoughts just kept coming. The situation was suddenly staring at me straight in the face and I couldn’t ignore it. It was as if I suddenly saw the truth behind the annoying, repetitive, technology demonising arguments that we’re constantly bombarded with. As I sat on that bench, bored out of my brains, desperate for something to keep me busy, I started to truly believe that this generation is so dependent on technology that we are essentially doomed. Just like Einstein predicted.  Being constantly connected to what’s happening on our phones has taken away from the excitement of what’s happening around us ‘now’. As I sat and pondered these thoughts, I felt inspired, frustrated, and slightly stupid, almost laughing at myself getting so passionate about an argument my mother would actually agree with. Nevertheless, I decided to write this article. Finally arriving home after a painful 15 minutes of waiting for the bus that would never come, I plug my phone into its life support. An overwhelming sense of relief flooding over me as the little Apple sign lit up. While I told myself I would get stuck into writing this article as soon as I got home, I soon found myself in a quite uncomfortable position, hanging off the side of my bed, neck strained, and catching up with all the things I’d missed out on in the longest 45 minutes of my life. How long was I sitting there for? Oh around half an hour. Ironic isn’t it? Feeling utterly disappointed in myself I throw my phone down and begin writing, although feeling like a self-contradictory idiot I struggle to even start when I know what I really want to be doing is stalking peoples Instagram pages. So the moral of the story is, I’m a hypocrite. In all seriousness though, why is it so hard to look up from our screens and start up a conversation with someone? Is it really that difficult? So as I finish up the last few sentences, I made a promise to myself, tomorrow I will go completely gadget-less, and actually try not to be socially inept. I might even talk to someone without the help of my keypad. Hopefully when I do I’ll have another epiphany, and then try again to write another, slightly less hypocritical and contradictory version of this article.

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