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Local Column

Schrader: Cell phone epidemic hits home, restaurants, churches

In this December 2011 file photo, a driver uses an iPhone while driving in Los Angeles. The country's four biggest cellphone companies are set to launch their first joint advertising campaign against texting while driving, uniting behind AT&T's "It Can Wait" slogan to blanket TV and radio during the summer of 2013.
In this December 2011 file photo, a driver uses an iPhone while driving in Los Angeles. The country's four biggest cellphone companies are set to launch their first joint advertising campaign against texting while driving, uniting behind AT&T's "It Can Wait" slogan to blanket TV and radio during the summer of 2013.

The Daily Chronicle story this week about police and sheriff’s deputies writing numerous tickets for distracted driving (mostly for using cellphones) brought up a pet peeve of mine.
The number of cellphone abusers in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportion, and young people from 10 to 20 years old seem to be leading the pack.

I saw a quote recently from American poet and civil-rights activist the late Maya Angelou that bears repeating: “I’m concerned that Americans are losing that place of meeting. There are very few times we can be more intimate as to share food together.”

When eating out or dining at home together, it seems senseless to spend that precious time talking on your phone or texting when you could be sharing quality time with those around you.

I find myself guilty of using my cellphone Monday mornings when gathering with a group of friends for breakfast. So I need to resolve to put the phone away.

One of my favorite TV series, “Blue Bloods,” always features the police commissioner’s family around the table at dinner. Their conversation is lively and sometimes acrimonious, but they spend their Sunday mealtime together as a family, and that tradition is going away in our homes today.

Here’s my pet peeve: Parents allowing their children to sit at the table or in a restaurant while either texting, talking or playing a game on their smartphone.

I recently discussed this on Facebook and will share two responses here: Al Erisman responded “It is not so much the place, but the attitudes and goals we bring to that place. Great conversations can take place around the dinner table, at IHOP, at Starbucks or at a picnic. Distraction can undermine the conversation at all of those places.”

Then Mary Rood Sauer wrote: “I have read somewhere that when friends get together, everyone puts their phone in the middle of the table, or some other place close. The first person to reach for their phone picks up the tab for everyone. If nobody reaches for their phone before the meal ends, then everyone pays for their own meal.”

Cellphone obsession even reaches into church, where children can be seen using their cellphone, texting or playing a game, while parents seem oblivious to it. I wonder how many parents use the cellphone as a means of punishment: “You broke the rules, so you will have your cellphone locked up for a week.”

Schools and colleges face the same problem, so teachers must now contend with cellphone sneaks while trying to focus on the subject matter.

We adults are just as guilty in many cases, so setting an example by not pulling out your phone while eating or attending a social gathering is a good start. I will try my best to discipline myself, but if you catch me looking down at my lap while eating out, please remind me of what I just wrote.

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at barry815@sbcglobal.net or through P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. An archive of his past columns can be found on his website www.dekalbcountylife.com.

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