AN ARGUMENT FOR PERSON-TO-PERSON COMMUNICATIONS
Recently I fired my doctor.
She and I had gotten along okay for a number of years, but things were just going downhill, communicatively speaking.
“Dr. W,” I said, “I need for you to look at me when we’re talking. I know there’s a lot of important information on that computer, and you have to input a lot of other important information. But I just can’t handle always talking into the air.” Dr. W continued to position herself northward as I, by design of the examining table, was aimed westward.
One day I couldn’t take it any more. I went to the Kaiser webpage listing General Practice doctors who are accepting new patients and found Dr. G.
I think Dr. G is about 12 — but that is a function of living as long as I have: the doctors all appear to be teenagers. I explained my Dr W problems to the young Dr. G. He turned the computer around and sat beside me so we could look at it together. We could also look each other in the eye when I was explaining very personal data. (Dr. G also showed me where my A1C had been six or eight years ago — whoever heard of A1C before TV ads started shouting about it? — and showed me how he’d start worrying if the line got above a certain point; as opposed to Dr W’s forever telling me vaguely that I am “pre-diabetic.” To be brutally frank, I am pre-dead, but that’s another story.)
Dr. G and I are living in a happily ever after relationship.
Relationships simply need eye contact. I really don’t care how important that computer is, with all its vital data, or that cellphone, with all its fascinating connections to people tango dancing in Buenos Aires or people in Eastern Asia saying stuff that may or may not be true — all I ask is a teeny moment of undivided attention. Look me in the eye.
Speaking of cellphones and interpersonal communications — which we must, although the two are totally incompatible:
Occasionally I go to dinner in a home where cellphones are not banned at the dinner table. (Occasionally I also go to indoor restaurants; but not often, because you can look someone in the eye in most indoor restaurants and not hear a word he or she is saying over the 95-decibel din, but that’s another story and anyway my age is showing again.)
Cellphones and dinners are 98% utterly incompatible. The other 2% is okay for looking up an interesting factoid that arose in the general conversation. Conversations — one or more persons exchanging thoughts with one or more other persons — cannot occur in the presence of a cellphone. Dinnertime, or lunchtime for that matter, conversations are good for the soul. (And the digestion, but that’s another story too.)
Sometimes cellphones at dinners are detached from the hand of the owner and placed beside the knife or fork. Well, okay, but face down please. A face-up cellphone competes for attention with other diners; the cellphone always wins. Diners, bless their hearts, have only voices and animated faces. Cellphones have flashing colors and beeping blurps and strobe lights — with which no ordinary human can successfully compete. The human might be the Secretary of State reporting on a front-line visit to Ukraine; it doesn’t matter. The cellphone wins.
Moral of story: humans need connection; machines break connections. Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree, that’s what conversation is all about, and conversation is always welcome.
Just look me in the eye.