When my sons were young, they couldn’t get enough of the now-classic video called “Road Construction.” The award-winning 1991 video by Fred Levine features 30 minutes of non-stop road-building action – from site surveys to demolition to the first car traveling down a finished highway.
This was the “state-of-the-art” addictive technology back in the early 1990s. My sons spent hours glued to watching this VHS and were most thrilled to see the construction video played backwards in rewind mode — something that has been lost in today’s ‘advanced’ digital technology age.
Leo, the building inspector for my village, knows a thing or two about Unplugging and Reconnecting. An Italian immigrant, he grew up in the Italian wine country, where he experienced a simpler way of life.
I met Leo during a road repaving project on my block. When I told him about how the road construction project was forcing neighbors to live a simpler life, albeit only briefly, he immediately appreciated how the benefits might possibly outweigh the inconveniences of having our street inaccessible for a few days.
Leo believes that, like water that flows from the freshest of mountain springs, we’re born to simplicity. The further water flows from its source, the more polluted it becomes. The same is true of our lives, he says. How we choose to maintain the simplicity to which we’re born is up to us.
As might be expected, food – especially savoring a good meal – is very important to Leo and his family. That’s why meal time is Unplug and Reconnect time in Leo’s house.
“We don’t use any technology while we’re eating,” he says. This rule also applies to Leo’s six grandchildren who, he admits, are as attached to their technological gadgets as any of their generation. “We hold onto the old ways at meal times. That’s when we discuss family matters.
Once, Leo and his wife were dining out in a restaurant and noticed a couple at the next table. They were “parallel texting” on their cell phones, Leo said. “My wife pointed out to me, ‘I don’t think they’re enjoying the food – their minds are set on whatever they’re texting.’ ”
It’s true. In order to truly enjoy food – to savor a meal or a good wine – one must devote a certain degree of attention and focus on the task. The same could be said about the way we choose to live our lives.
TOMORROW — Dr. Geliebter remembers “Road Construction,” a video classic.
Feb 8th, 2012Comments Off on The Conductor on the Train Says ‘Shhh!’
A growing number of commuters traveling on New York’s Metro North railroad apparently like to unplug and reconnect during their morning commute – so much so that the MTA recently announced yet another expansion of its pilot “Quiet Car” program to include rush-hour trains on its New Haven line.
The transportation agency’s Quiet Car initiative asks customers to refrain from using cell phones and to disable the sound feature on pagers, games, computers and other electronic devices during travel. Commuters riding in these specially designated cars are also asked to conduct conversations in subdued voices and to use headphone devices at a volume that cannot be heard by other passengers. If riders don’t comply, conductors hand them a card that reads “Shhh!”
According to the MTA, Quiet Cars have been catching on across the northeast. New Jersey Transit began its Quiet Car program on the North East Corridor Line in September 2010. Following a positive reception, Metro North partnered with NJ Transit to expand its Quiet Commute program in June 2011 to include all of Metro North’s peak West of Hudson Service, both the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines.
The pilot then expanded to 36 peak Hudson and Harlem Line trains in October 2011. The following December, the Long Island Rail Road launched its Quiet Car pilot program on select peak hour trains that operate between Far Rockaway and Atlantic Terminal.
MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said it’s likely the initiative will be made permanent, due to overwhelming favorable response.
Want to enjoy some unplugging time during your rush-hour commute? New printed timetables show a “Q” to designate trains with a quiet car, which are usually the first car for morning trains and the last car for evening trains.
Feb 3rd, 2012Comments Off on Game Puts Cell Phone Etiquette to Test
We have long been proponents of putting away the cell phone at mealtimes. So naturally, we’re delighted with a new game making the rounds that challenges diners to put their cell phones away during restaurant meals . . . or else risk picking up the tab for everyone’s dinner.
According to “The Atlantic Monthly,” the game was developed by a group of friends in San Francisco who were looking for a way to enjoy conversations at dinner without the distraction of others talking and texting on their cell phones.
The rules are as follows:
The game starts after everyone orders
All parties must place their phone on the table face down
The first person to flip over their phone loses the game
The loser picks up the dinner tab
If no one loses, all participants pay for their share of the meal
There are, of course, opportunities for variations on this theme. For meals at home, the loser might be tasked with cleanup duty or have to forfeit the use of his or her cell phone for a set period of time.
Has cell phone usage cut into your mealtimes? Why not make a game of unplugging and reconnecting – it’s a fun way to break a not-so-fun habit!
Jan 20th, 2012Comments Off on Ringing Phone Halts Symphony Performance
Some people apparently can’t live without their smart phones. This was recently proven by an elderly gentlemen whose phone rang and rang . . . and rang, forcing the conductor to halt a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall earlier this month.
Apologizing to 2,700 concertgoers, music director and conductor Alan Gilbert explained: “Usually, when these things occur, we ignore them. But this is such an egregious disturbance that I am forced to stop.”
It seems the ringing phone, set to play a Marimba ringtone, was competing with a particularly quiet moment in the emotional 82-minute Mahler work. The phone’s owner is said to have sheepishly turned off his phone as fellow concertgoers shouted, “Throw him out!”
Now cell phones are a wonderful convenience, helping to keep us connected with loved ones, friends and colleagues. But as the symphony guest’s behavior so egregiously demonstrated, there are times — like at a performance or when sharing a meal with others — when a cell phone should be turned off so that we can tune in to the people and events that are important to us.