The "Head- Downers"
We first noticed the phenomena while we were having lunch at a pleasant beachfront hotel, on Amelia Island, in Florida. A twenty- something couple was having lunch at a table nearby. After they ordered their meal from the waitress, they didn’t speak to each other for the rest of the luncheon. They were each busily engaged in manipulating the electronic controls of their I-phones, eyes intently locked on e-mails and other incoming electronic data. We thought it odd behavior then but hey, to each their own, right?
Since that time, we have encountered similar behavior in many venues. No two of the “head downers” for that is what we so we christened them, were of the same age, sex or any other similar characteristic. The one unifying theme with each of them is that their heads were tilted down, peering intently at the small plastic rectangle in front of them.
At first, that seemed somewhat normal to us. This is after all the information age and most of us have some type of portable phone or device for checking e-mails and phone messages while we are out and about. But it was the annoying repetition of the behavior that soon began to draw out attention. Sometimes while at lunch, even one of our companions would pull out their phone and start checking e-mails. We were too tactful at first to say, "Hey what are we, chopped liver?” Usually, the spouse of the offender would tactfully inquire, "are you expecting a phone call from the white house, dear?” That seemed to work sometimes, but not always.
And then we started seeing these small rectangles of light pop up in darkened theaters. Moviegoers couldn’t even wait until the film ended before they checked their messages. Maybe the white house is a more active correspondent than we thought.
And now, we see the “head downers” doing their strange behavior while piloting a two thousand pound automobile at speeds above 65 mph! That is really scary. When we encounter one of these morons, we usually get as far away from them as traffic will allow, hoping they don’t take us out with their careless and inattentive behavior. What gives with that? Even an idiot knows better than to behave like that!
We see the “head downers” everywhere now, people walking down the street, oblivious to traffic and peering intently at the small plastic rectangles in their hands. Does the White House really make that many calls?
I don’t really know what to make of the phenomena. Is it an addiction to information? Is it pure doltish behavior? Is it social isolationism as a rebellion against too much interaction in urban centers? I wonder if farmers milking cows are checking their e-mails while squeezing the cow’s udders?
In any case, we are much more aware of our own information retrieval behavior now. We only check for messages when we are not driving or interacting with others. We try to limit ourselves to one peek per hour looking, always looking, for that call from the White House. Hey, you never know!
As for our information-addicted friends, I hope they get across streets uninjured and learn to not be so careless texting and “head downing” while driving an automobile. Don’t worry, the White House will always leave a message if they really want to get hold of you.
Joseph Xavier Martin