I was having a conversation with someone yesterday ... Well, if it can be called a conversation. It was more like talking to a wall, but this person was actually responding in some form. The problem was (at least, it was a problem for me...) that this person, let's call him "Shmuly," was checking his blackberry while I was trying to have a conversation with him. I hadn't seen Shmuly in a while, and figured I'd ask how things were etc... (and with a smile of course). He was responding to me while reading his incoming emails, texts, messages. So in effect he wasn't really responding at all, but I think in his mind he was having a conversation. Here's a verbal sound bite that is probably all too familiar to others:
AA: "So Shmuly, how are things? How's the mishpachah?" S: "[pause while checking blackberry]Uhhh, Good. [opens message on blackberry]" AA: "What's new and exciting my friend?" S: "[no reply][no reply] [stare blankly at blackberry screen] Uhhh, What was that?" AA: "Was just wondering how you're doing?" S: " Oh, Good. [pause while checking blackberry] [stare blankly at blackberry screen]"
Need I go on. It's becoming all too common, no? I first realized the extent of this problem a while back when someone knocked on my door, I opened it and began to greet the person, the person was talking back, BUT NOT TO ME. He was talking to someone else on his bluetooth device. Now he knocked on MY door. Was looking at ME. But was talking to someone else. I made a mental note at the time that things seem to be going downhill since the advent of these bluetooth devices.
After thinking about this conversation yesterday, it was clear to me that there was a problem, both in that particular conversation, and obviously in the relationship, if you can call it that.
AND THEN.... I walked into shul this morning. In the middle of brachos, my blackberry buzzed with an email. I wouldn't be so brazen as to look at the blackberry while in shul, but for a second I thought about who I might have been expecting a message from. I put on my mental block against "buzzing" and went on. Before Ashrei, another "buzz". Maybe for a nanosecond, or two, I thought again - Hmmmmm, could be about that deal yesterday. Chazaras HaShatz - it went off again. Buzz. Focus... Focus ... Block it out. But, who's there crosses my mind - even for a mega fraction of a second.
So are a few buzzes on my blackberry so bad? Not in the scheme of things I would think, but when I think about my conversation with Shmuly, I am really doing the same thing, no? I've made a deal with myself for some time not to look at my phone in shul, but I don't shut it off - "just in case" (what did people do before there were cell phones - I need to lug this thing around "just in case"??). By not shutting it off, I lose focus during those buzz events, even if only for a few seconds. So however minimal the disturbance is, it's a gap in my conversation with H", and by default, my relationship with H".
As a parent, I can't begin to describe how frustrating it is when I talk to one of my children about something important, and they are focusing - however briefly - on another conversation or event in the house. How must H" feel when I'm in the middle of talking to him, asking him for my very life, and turn my attention - however briefly - to a gadget that's buzzing on my waist, and to an email or message or incoming call that is probably so temporary and irrelevant as to be almost absurd. I can picture the event in my mind - standing before the King of Kings, pleading for each detail, speaking holy words that are supposed to be made placed as diamonds on the King's crown, and focusing instead on a fat microchip hanging on my belt buckle. Is that not absurd? Is that not pathetic?
H" is pleading with me to look him in the face when I talk to him. So here's an idea. A simple eitzah that I'm going to start during Bein HaMetzarim. Bli Neder, the phone comes off, and goes out of reach during my time in shul. I'm not going to touch it or look at it during my time in shul - only after I leave. No more buzzing. No more losing focus. No more annoyance.
H" Ya'azor, H" Yishmor - please help me, and help us all Abbala, to focus on my relationship with You! Help me, and help us all, to talk to you in the right way. Help me, and help us all, look you in the face when we talk to you.