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Illuminations from the throne

Smartphone zombies.

Not paying attention.
Photo Credit: Eran Menashri

There I was, casually standing on the platform, just me and my thoughts, waiting for a train. I wasn’t blocking the stairway with my eight suitcases like some bozos do, nor was I hidden in the shadows. I was in nobody’s way, clearly visible from all directions. It wasn’t even busy. So it came as quite a shock when someone walked into me.

When the brain is presented with such unexpected stimuli, it needs to work through a few processing algorithms.

Stage 1: What just happened?

Oh, collision. That’s not normal. So…

Stage 2: Was that my fault or theirs?

Stage 3, the eventual output, depends on the results of stage 2. Either you apologise or offer the other party involved some advice. Sub-procedures within stage 2 determine the exact terminology to use, as well as a level of firmness appropriate for its delivery.

On this occasion my brain concluded that, since I was standing still and surrounded by plenty of empty space, the fault was most likely not mine. But before it could put stage 3 into action, a further shock was in store.

A little mop of blond hair sprang back, ripped out an earbud and started screaming at me. Apparently this was my fault after all. My brain was forced back into stage 2, but now hampered by befuddlement, it was unable to respond before she’d finished her spat and continued on her way, airpod screwed back into place.

I found myself right back at stage 1: what the hell just happened?

100% of Blonde Mop’s attention was allocated to her phone. Actually, that’s unfair. Perhaps some of it was reserved for the music she was listening to. Walking into another person was not a concern because, as I was now realising, she seemed to think it was my responsibility to notice that she hadn’t noticed me and remove myself from her trajectory.

Maybe she had good reason. We’re already catering for hapless scrolling addicts. In some areas, special lanes have been created for people who want to stride along the street without the burden of having to look where they’re going. Rather than relying on a traditional ampelmann, some cities have installed flashing lights in the pavement to warn pedestrians that traffic is zipping by on the road they’re about to step into.

There’s even a medical sounding term: nomophobia. If a person has [___]phobia (fill something in), they expect their behaviour to be excused, whether or not it’s been clinically diagnosed. Or even exists.

Hey, you shouldn’t just assume I’ll look up from my phone, even if I’m in a potentially dangerous situation. I have nomophobia.

In other words…

You obviously have more common sense than I do so the accident was your fault.

I think that was the gist of Blond Mop’s little outburst.

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