A man curses loudly as he makes a painful meeting with a fire hydrant. A woman yelps as her face meets the fixed post supporting a no parking sign. Street music is played as a man’s knee unexpectedly runs into the side of a letter box with a resounding, tympanic “thung,” accompanied by a curse.

I witnessed all of these events within a single block while walking along Fifth Avenue in NYC. Lest you assume that zombies may indeed have come to life, I think, and I wish I could be sure, that all these people were only ‘phonedicapped.’ That’s my word for engaging in activities that require attention while simultaneously trying to consult one’s phone. Phonedicapped.  Phone yes, head no!  Rendered headless by reason of phone consultation.

I wish I could say that it was funny. Sometimes it does resemble a show the likes of which “America’s Funniest Home Videos” might like to have sent to them, but I don’t find injury to be funny. I confess that I laugh at odd things, but injury is not usually one of them.

I also wish that being phonedicapped was restricted to relatively innocuous pedestrian injury, but we all know about similarly caused car crashes and who knows what might be next? Power plant meltdowns? Sadly, our Smartphones do not seem to be making us smart so much as distracting us with readily available answers, often to trivial questions, while simultaneously detaching us from normal human interaction.

No doubt we’ve all seen the young couple in a restaurant who never look at each other nor talk to each other. They order their meals through their phones, then sit and eat in each other’s presence without talking with each other at all (at least not aloud, though texting is likely). That’s not the worst of it! Smartphones seem to be detaching us even from ourselves!

Case in point, reported to me by a friend. “I was in an office with three other people. An older man said, ‘I feel cold,’ and looked for confirmation or disagreement from his two younger co-workers. Their Smartphones were out like gunslingers in the American Old West, both of them instantly checking their phones for the ambient temperature.”

An old-fashioned human bean might have done a mental check with themselves, asking themselves, “Do I feel cold?” But not these two. Data, not experience, proved or disproved everything. They were smart about it. Yeah well, in my jaundiced eye they were phonedicapped. It shouldn’t take a data device to tell you how you feel.

A bank-teller conspiracy theorist once posited to my girlfriend that human interaction was purposely being engineered out of existence so that in the future, when massive numbers of people are suffering and dying, we will all have become so detached from human interaction and detached from our own feelings that we will not care.

Personally, I think that her assessment may be a by-product of technological development, but I doubt that it is a conspiracy, as such. But then, maybe the gadgets have already outsmarted us. Since we all know that containing a conspiracy among humans is next to impossible, maybe this is a conspiracy not shared with humans at all!

Cue intro music from the Twilight Zone!

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