As expats, currently living in Kuwait, we relish the chances we get to come home to the U.S. Last year, we returned home and did all our catch-ups and vacationing in Manhattan, Washington, DC and the stunning national parks of Utah. And in addition to thoroughly enjoying each city we were in, I started to notice something new: America’s roots were showing. In general, this phenomenon of noting “new” things is not unusual. Living abroad inevitably results in us being woefully behind in current TV shows, books and movies, not to mention having no clue who’s hot and who’s not. Our first summer back in 2009, I remember whispering to my husband as we stood in line at the grocery store, “Who’s this Justin Bieber guy?”
But this last trip, my attention was drawn from the tabloids to the people around me. Or rather, to the bald spots, receding hairlines, thinning hair, and desperately needed root touch-ups. That’s all I saw. In every city, in every museum, in every bookstore, and even at the Grand Canyon’s north rim, everyone had their head in a phone. It was like the U.S. had been taken over by pod people, and they could only get nourishment from the LED screen. People were bumping into each other with barely a muttered, “Sorry.” But it didn’t matter whether the bumper apologized, because the bumpee was equally distracted getting their hourly nourishment.
We’d go out to dinner and I’d see almost every other table laid out with dinner fork, salad fork, iPhone 4. Granted, maybe our dinner neighbor was a brain surgeon, or her companion was awaiting a call from the Nobel folks, which would make their tether understandable. However, the likelihood of that being the case during the entire three weeks was probably slim to none. These were just regular folk; just your average, balding, dry-scalped, LED-malnourished Americans who were unable to spend 30 minutes eating dinner without having their phones in visual range.
Now, in the interest of full-disclosure, I will say that I do not own a smart phone… yet (I’m sure assimilation is in my future). However, my husband does and its various features and gadgets have come in handy. I’m not anti-smart phone or modern technology or any Star Trek-like gadget. In fact, as an expat, I’m eagerly awaiting the day I get to say, “Beam me up (to Bangkok), Scotty”, even if I have to forgo my frequent flyer miles.
However, I find it a bit sad and disappointing when I see people who’d rather see the latest lolcat than actually communicate with the human in front of them. Of course, they’d have to get that human to untether as well, but one can always hope.
So, while I mourn the demise of eye-contact and communication skills, maybe I’ll do my part to help Americans everywhere. I wonder if Clairol would like to sponsor my, “Look up, your roots are showing” app?