Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Narcissist Generation

I should have seen it coming. The first time I saw a mobile phone, about twenty five years ago, I was very impressed: mobile phones were not cellular back then, they came with a heavy suitcase and looked like the army field phones. A person with a phone like this must have an important job and be able to answer in an emergency. That is what I thought.
A middle aged man sitting next to me at the airport took a heavy phone out of his case, deployed a five feet antenna and said:
“I am at the airport. The plane is on time.”
I guess I had expected 007, I felt deflated.
Similarly, when my friend Mr. Dulac, who had a small TV and electronic shop in the French town of Angouleme, installed a car phone for the first time, it was for a man who wanted to call his wife to tell her to open the garage door when he came home.
Nowadays when I go to the grocery store, one person out of three is on their cell phone. I roll my cart next to them, and what do they say?
“I am at Wal-Mart”, or “I am at Kroger’s” or they say: “I think that I’ll buy an Iceberg salad.”
Then they go home and they twitter the same message.
What kills me is that I do not understand whom they are talking to. Does one third of the country talk to the ten percent unemployed people we have? It does not make statistical sense. Who has the time to listen to this incessant chatter and to read all these Twitter and Facebook messages? What do these people DO?
What kind of friends does this new generation have? All my friends work. They remodel houses, they teach, they are ex-military going back to school, they pave roads, they invest, they write books. Even if they do not have a job, they all work. Of course all of them, including my ex-students, are over forty years old.
I think that if I called any of them to say that I am at the grocery store and considering, God forbid, buying an Iceberg salad, they would have me committed.

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