By Jerry Bowen
Los Angeles, CA, USA
The Garden of Eden
(A very long time ago)
"So God, I know you're busy but Eve and I have been talking and we have a couple of questions."
"What is it Adam?"
"Well, we understand the clay and the rib thing. You gotta start somewhere. We like the feet. The hair is cool. Eve has some stuff going that's kind of interesting. But what's with the opposable thumbs?"
"The thumbs separate you from most other creatures in the kingdom Adam. They give you greater control over things. The ability to easily hold and manipulate objects. Like the apple."
"Not that apple, Adam. You've been warned."
"So Adam, what did he say?"
"Something about making it easier to play with the apple."
"God I am so ready."
The Chinese Theater
Los Angeles, California
Perhaps we should have seen it coming. The end of civility as we knew it. The curse of the opposable thumbs. The real original sin.
A woman is in Hollywood's famed Chinese Theater at a movie screening. True story. She is texting on her phone when the man seated behind her leans over and asks her to stop. The bright light on her small screen is distracting him from the film on the big screen. She ignores him and continues to text.
He leans over again and whispers loudly for her to stop. Her texting is ruining the theater experience. Again, she ignores him and continues typing out her message.
Finally the man taps her on the shoulder and demands she quit. And the texting woman goes ballistic. Stands up shouting she's been assaulted. Reaches in her purse, pulls out a can of mace and sprays the man right between the eyes, in his eyes, all over his face.
The man stumbles from his seat in agony. Makes it down the stairs out of the theater into a restroom to rinse his face. Later, the woman is removed by ushers. But the police aren't called and charges aren't filed.
Everyone vanishes into the night air, past the tourists kneeling over the handprints of long dead stars in the theater courtyard, out on the boulevard's Walk of Fame where more stars, dead and alive, are honored, wondering, "What the hell?"
Fair to say that texting, in the wrong hands, has become a tool of the devil. No question it can be extremely useful. Parents texting kids for the afterschool pick up. Kids checking-in with their friends. Teens checking-in with one another.
And then there are the obsessed. The addicted. Texters who are connected through their busy opposable thumbs to a device that takes them into a nether world. And totally disconnects them from reality.
Hands please. How many of you have been walking down the street and just avoided a head-on collision with someone texting? Oblivious to everything except their thumbs and the tiny screen that holds their attention.
How many times have you been driving the freeway and noticed the car ahead weaving? At two in the afternoon. Weaving like a drunk driver except that you know, you know because the body language tells you that they are actually D.U.I.T. – Driving Under the Influence of Texting. Silicon Valley sauce.
Bronson Canyon Trail
The Hollywood Hills
Bronson Canyon is one of many gateways to Griffith Park. What Central Park is to New York City, Griffith Park is to Los Angeles. Except it is larger and wilder. There are rattlesnakes here. And coyotes which will gladly eat little Fluffy if it strays off leash on the hiking trails.
It was on the trail up to Mount Hollywood, with its city-to-sea views of the Los Angeles basin, that I encountered one of Eve's descendants. Texting. Secure in her wind shirt and tight jeggings and totally absorbed as she key stroked her way to the top.
She was smiling, texting and hiking which meant she was multi-tasking. And she wasn't bothering a soul. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Enjoying nature too in her own way. Which meant ignoring nature, where she was physically. Because mentally, she was somewhere else.
I did not see her run into other hikers or step on a rattlesnake or walk over the edge and roll down the side of Mount Hollywood into the Observatory parking lot. But then I didn't stay to watch that part. If it happened.
It just raised a question in my mind for which I have no answer. How does one explain this urge…this need to be so connected that one shuts out reality?
An old friend of mine, Nate the Skate, has a theory. Nate thinks the really obsessive texters are connected to people through their devices because they are unable to relate to people in the flesh. Can't look them in the eye, carry on an intelligent conversation, empathize, joke or comfort a live human. But LOL, when they get those opposable thumbs flying the world comes alive. Inside their devices. I think Nate may be onto something.
The edge of Korea Town
There is no better sushi for the price than Noshi's and that is why the wait is sometimes long for a booth or table. And it was at Noshi's one Friday night as I waited that it was difficult not to notice the couple sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on a bench, also waiting their turn.
They weren't talking to one another. They were texting. To someone else. And since they were both doing it they couldn't be accused of being rude to each other. Or rude to anyone else around them for that matter. But somehow it just seemed a bit off. As old fashioned at it may sound, what is wrong with a little conversation?
Again one has to wonder what are they texting about? I mean, these are instant messages given a nano-second of thought, zapped into space and just as quickly vaporized after being read. (Well not really. Nothing apparently is ever erased forever on the internet.) But brief messages not to be remembered for long. If ever. Not like the handwritten letter of another time. Labored over and mailed and read and reread maybe, especially if it was moving or wonderful or revealing.
Highland and Willoughby
Los Angeles, California
Highland Avenue runs south from the Hollywood freeway and past the cavernous Hollywood Bowl. Eventually it crosses the Boulevard where tourists trace the stars on the Walk of Fame. It is always busy. Especially during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
One August morning in 2012, a young mother was driving her minivan south on Highland with her girls, 4-year-old Stephanie and 6-year-old Hilda, buckled in their seats. 27-year-old Saida Mendez-Bernadino was taking them to school.
That same morning 74-year-old Solomon Mathenge was driving his Infiniti SUV north on Highland. Driving illegally. His license had been suspended two years earlier after a conviction for speeding and talking on his cell phone behind the wheel.
The SUV and the minivan collided at the intersection of Highland and Willoughby. It was described as a grinding crash.
Mathenge's vehicle had veered across lanes into southbound traffic, hitting the minivan broadside and ramming it into a light pole.
The young mother and her two girls were killed. The elderly driver who should not have been driving was critically injured.
Investigators said it wasn't drugs or alcohol that caused the accident. It was texting. The elderly driver took his eyes off the road to text someone.
He was connected. Just not with reality.
The Garden of Eden
(A very long time ago)
"So Eve. What did you think of the apple?"
"Couldn't resist it Adam. But I think we're in trouble. Big trouble."