Just a Sec . . .

Smart phones as a mixed blessing.

Young and perhaps foolish, we were trying to figure out the source of a famous quotation from Shakespeare while drinking a few beers at Pat-‘n’-Steve’s house. I disremember which quotation, but it may have been “They do not love that do not show their love.” Probably not “You, minion, are too saucy.” Someone thought it might be from A Comedy of Errors; two other possibilities were Measure for Measure or The Merry Wives of Windsor. Finally, with some hesitation – since it was about 10:00 p.m. and we were students at Covenant College, which strictly forbade drinking – we decided to call Dr. Barker, our English professor and repository of every known quotation from Shakespeare.

Had this discussion taken place 47 years later, we could have had the answer almost instantly, via our smart phones. We wouldn’t have had to worry that Dr. Barker would smell the beer on Steve’s breath and we would have known right away that the quotation came from Two Gentleman of Verona

Our friends were taking their farewells when Neil spotted a hawk soaring above us. It wasn’t a red-tailed but definitely some sort of buteo. Neil quickly checked on his bird ID app and we could tell in seconds that the conformation meant it was a relatively rare (for our area) broad-winged hawk. This particular app is also very useful for identifying bird songs for those of us who are inexperienced or avianly tone-deaf.

The smart phone also helps a person cheat on cross-word puzzles and stop dead trivial pursuit arguments about who is the greatest football player of all time. With the smart phone we also video-recorded my brother Brian on my Kubota, model B2320, the object of his covetousness. It is a delightful record of a delightful visit. 

There. I’ve done it. I’ve said positive things about the smart phone. There are a few howevers, however. 

I’ve always struggled with interrupting people before they finish speaking. Telephones interrupt, too, but nothing like cell-phones and if these phones are “smart,” they are even worse. 

I wonder how parents and teachers guide their students in showing respect and courtesy when many, if not most, of the people with whom children associate are regularly paged, beeped, texted, sung to, or otherwise notified of things that may or may not be of any significance. 

Angela Reitsma Bick, editor of Christian Courier, gave me these instructions for an issue with a smart phone theme: “If you don’t have a smart phone, write about that!” I have a smart phone but usually only use it as a telephone for emergencies. No apps, I guess.  

Angela continues: “Or, if this whole topic drives you bonkers, you are as always welcome to write about something completely unrelated to our theme. :-)” For the record: This whole topic drives me bonkers, and in spite of all the writings I’ve seen about “redeeming technology,” I am convinced that the smart phone – simply by being there – affects human behaviour more than sermons do. I would go on but I just got a text from someone about the wonderful hamburger he ate.

I would like to put a sign up on our door: “You are welcome to smoke in this house, but turn your d— cell-phone off.”

“Our Father who art in . . . just a sec; I’ve got to take this.”

Why is it that at most worship services and almost all concerts, cell phones must be turned off, but not when friends – guests and hosts – gather in fellowship?

No conclusions here. I tried the phrase, “Mixed blessing.” It sounded OK, but “mixed curse” a little much. Is a smart phone more like a hunting rifle or more like a mortar? What would be “in-between” these options? Is there an “in-between?”  I don’t know exac. . . 

Sorry, gotta go. Meghan just texted me about my column for CC. 

  • Curt Gesch and his wife lead the singing via Zoom for a combined service of small United Church congregations in central B.C. each Sunday morning. In the afternoon, they lead a Friends and Family Zoom worship from their home. If you'd like to join that service, please write Curt at moc.liamg@36hcsegc

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