Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 9, 2015

OK to disconnect

View From The Cheap Seats

William O. "Bill" James, Jr.

Last fall, Patti and I were dropped off at an event out of town. We planned on catching a ride afterward with some friends, so we didn’t need a car. Thirty seconds after the car drove off, I realized I’d left my phone in the car. Patti didn’t have her phone, so we had no way to call and get my phone. I immediately panicked. My mind began to swim with the endless problems I’d face spending three to four hours without my phone. I was having trouble breathing and was definitely bordering on a panic attack. Someone I met a couple of times came up to me, and I was having trouble having a coherent conversation because I was trying to figure out how I was going to get my phone back in my hand. I finally had to excuse myself and borrow a phone from a stranger to try to get it. I finally got my phone brought back, but not before almost stroking out.

This episode made me realize I might have some issues that need to be addressed. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine what could have happened that would have been so compelling and so important that my getting that information a few hours later would make any kind of real difference in my life. It’s not like someone is going to call me for the secret code.

But, the truth is, I wasn’t able to relax and enjoy myself until I finally got my phone back.

I know I’m not alone. In fact, I might be in the majority. Go to a restaurant and look at the people sitting at their tables. A large number of them will be looking at their phones, even when there are perfectly good people sitting in front of them, and at least able to have a conversation. That is, as long as they’re not busy looking at their phone.

Since the above described cell phone freak out, I’ve done a little better. I actually went to a high school football game without my phone and survived. I didn’t leave the phone by choice, but I also didn’t seriously consider driving home to get it. Although, truth be told, we did have Patti’s phone in case of an emergency. My family has also implemented a no-phones-at-the-table policy, which has substantially reduced the amount of cell phone usage at said table. (I’ve cheated and looked at my phone at the table, but only because what I need to do is very important. At least that’s what I tell myself.)

A couple of months ago, I heard a politician refer to smart phones as the devil. I’m not sure they’re the devil, but as with anything, spending too much time on one isn’t good for you. The convenience, speed, and efficiency phones add to our lives go only so far. At some point, the phone goes from servant to master. If we’re not careful, the phone can easily become a negative in our lives.

Recognizing the problem is the first step. Deciding how to fix it is often easy. Doing what’s needed is the sticking point. Even if the solution is simple, we don’t always want to take action. We know all we have to do is put our phones down, leave them in our pockets, or turn them off so they won’t make noise while we eat. Let’s face it: if most of us checked our phones once an hour, we’d rarely miss a thing.

We need to remember there’s a big world outside of cyberspace, and the people we really need to connect with are often those right in front of us. That’s true for everyone, especially those of us way up in the CHEAP SEATS!

Bill James is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Little Rock, Conway, and Fayetteville, Ark. He would love to hear what you think about his column. He may be reached at Bill@JamesFirm.com.