Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Bluetooth Blues

My Luddite tendencies caught me out again the other day. I was having lunch with a new friend this past week. I arrived first, and as I stood up to greet her when she came in, I saw her Bluetooth earpiece. The lunch was fun—a new place and writing talk (this is a buddy I went through November’s NaNoWriMo with). The whole time, however, stray thoughts kept drifting into my head about that Bluetooth. All the while that we were talking, was she receiving signals that she was missing phone calls? Was her attention split? Did she long for things to wrap up so she could count her voice-mail messages?

She wasn’t a good enough friend that I could have just blurted, “What’s that thing on your head, and will it go off?” For all I know, she could have turned it off before getting out of the car—leaving it only a strange, inert ear ornament. Meanwhile, I was the one with split attention. Trying to focus on what she said, but all the while wondering about this new implement of connection. In my reading lifetime, we are coming sooooooooooo very close to the science fiction I read as a youngster in which people were permanently plugged into “The Net” through implants. I’m afraid that early Sci Fi has stuck with me and informs some of my opinions. I just don’t think being always available is a good thing. I also think it is hard to be “in the moment” fully while festooned with communication devices.

Is there an etiquette for this? Should sporting a Bluetooth headset while in a public place be as much a faux pas as talking on one? Or have I already been marginalized, because I find it wildly annoying that people in the grocery line ahead of me or the coffee line at Starbucks are talking way too loudly about stuff I don’t want to know all the while transacting business? Transacting their business slower and with pauses, of course, since you can’t really do two things at once—at least not well. If I’m annoyed, what about the poor service person or cashier relegated to a status lower than that of some anonymous person not even there in the eyes (but not the ears) of the talker?

Excuse me, I have to close now. The inbox on my email just dinged.


Anonymous Beda said...

You speak for many people here. Publix, January 1, I learned more than I wanted to know about several customers' New Years celebrations. "Only a little sparking wine for me today. I hit the bubbly really hard last night. I'll tell you all about it later." Thanks for small favors.

Glad to see you back blogging.

2:34 PM  

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