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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Zack Morris Phone...And Why I Wish We All Had One...

You know, one of the things that I want to do with the blog this year is to write more personalized stories about things that are going through my head at the moment, while supplementing them with a pop culture twist.  And, I did say that one of the changes that I would be making would be less emphasis on descriptions and more emphasis on personal tales and what I've learned over the years through the subject of pop culture.

This is the case with today's entry.  It's a combination of interesting story and slight rant with just a little dash of pop culture blended in for flavouring.  I'm trying to present information a little bit differently to keep this blog fresh, because after nearly three years, I find it a challenge to come up with suitable topics.  So, I'm trying a different approach.

Okay, so I'll set up the story/rant.

I am the kind of person who contrary to what some may believe, I enjoy having conversations with people - well, provide that the other person isn't one that takes the information I tell them and uses it to spread tomorrow's gossip.

Okay, let's amend that a bit.  I enjoy having conversations with people who won't betray me or stab me in the back.  Yes, that's much better.

And, by conversations, I do not mean "Hi, how are you today?" or "Nice weather we're having", or "Is the tuna fish sandwich delicious?".  I mean deep, meaningful conversations that get people thinking.  Conversations that spark a lively discussion about anything and everything.  Conversations that take on a life of their own and are so interesting and unpredictable that you never know how it will end, or the possible things that could come up in discussion.

As someone who kept away from people for a spell due to a plethora of emotional issues, I've rediscovered the lost art of conversation, and my hope is that I run into people who share that same love.

But that's just it.  As far as I'm concerned, the art of good conversation is becoming exactly that.  A lost art.

These days, I am finding it quite difficult to engage in conversation with people...and honestly, I don't think it's my fault this time.  Oh, sure, when I was younger, I would have a hard time because I was always worried about saying the wrong thing, or thinking they wouldn't like me, or all sort of insecure silliness that happened to pass through my brain at that time.  But now, I'm finding it difficult because people simply don't like to get engaged in deep conversation.

They would much rather stare blankly into their mobile phones to play a round of Candy Crush, text a person on the other end who only writes in Internet acronyms, or watches a dozen of those Vine videos that they find entertaining, but other people find incredibly foolish.

Well, okay, not EVERYONE is like this.  But I also have to admit that when it comes to meeting new people, it doesn't really bode well when their nose is glued to a cell phone screen trying to play the game Flappy Bird.

(Seriously, what the hell is a Flappy Bird?  And, why should I care about a Flappy Bird?  Is it the same as an Angry Bird?  Big Bird?  Wait...why am I caring again?)

I've kept quiet about this until now, but I'm going to be honest...I can't stand it when people sit down at the same table that I am at and instead of even saying hello to me, they instantly yank out their phone and freeze me out.  I'm sorry, but that's just plain rude.  Even ruder still is when they show everyone else at the table some funny video that they found and completely ignore you for who knows what reason.  Believe me, I've had that happen to me as well, and as far as I'm concerned, it's just as rude.

Mind you, some of the people who are cell phone junkies are probably so stuck on their screen that they aren't even aware of their rudeness.  In fact, these "cell phone zombies" lack so much self-awareness that I'm amazed that none of them have any horror stories of walking straight into an open manhole on the street or nearly getting clobbered by a Ford Mustang as they cross the street.

And, don't even get me started on the number of people who absolutely have nervous breakdowns because they misplace or break their phones.  I've even heard some people exclaim that they can't live without their phones.

Um.  No.  Just no.  Does your phone allow you to breathe clean air?  No.  Does your phone provide you shelter in a storm?  No.  Can your phone feed you?  No.  And, don't even try to use the argument that you can use your phone to order Domino's Pizza.  That won't fly with me.

Now, as much as you might think that I am anti-mobile phone, I really am not.  I think everyone should have one for emergency purposes.  I even have a pay-as-you-go phone (that I haven't used since 2012)...but it's nice to know that I have one, in case I need it.  But I am not one who is attached to the phone.  I have seen some people become so antisocial in trying to use their phones to go on every social network they can, and it's enough for me to swear to myself that I wouldn't become so dependent on a piece of electronic equipment.

But, what's the solution?  You can't wish for a scenario in which all mobile phones stop working a la "Revolution".  I don't know if I could handle living in a world without ANY outside communication.  But, I don't really want to live in a world where people become slaves to technology.  I want to feel as though I can engage in conversation with somebody without having to talk to them through a screen.

So, here's my solution.  It's a crazy one, but I think it might work.

What if we took all the smartphones in the world, and replaced them with Zack Morris phones instead?

Now, what exactly is a Zack Morris phone?  Well, it's this.

You see, years 25 years ago, to be exact, mobile phones were a lot different.  They had gigantic antennas, looked like a retro walkie-talkie, and weighed enough that you could probably kill a man if you threw them hard enough.  I don't even know how heavy those phones were, but they certainly looked as though you could get quite a workout with them.

And on "Saved By The Bell", Zack Morris certainly could be one of those kids who might have fallen into the clutches of the cell phone zombie.  After all, every other episode of the show featured Zack using his phone to get out of some serious jams, be it hiring an actor to impersonate Mr. Belding, to winning a trip to Hawaii from a radio contest hosted at The Max to calling Kelly for a date in record time.  Zack's first love may not have been Kelly Kapowski, but his super gigantic cellular phone.

But there's a beautiful simplicity to Zack's whopper of a portable phone.  There was no screen, no texting, no fancy ringtones...nothing of the sort.  In many ways, Zack's phone worked basically the same as a modern day cordless phone...well, minus the gigantic antenna, of course.  And, you know, that was fine.  After all, Zack didn't just spend his whole day on the phone.  He had to find a way to rescue Screech whenever he had gotten himself into trouble while following one of Zack's lame ideas.  He had to plan social time with Slater and Lisa while sipping on milkshakes at The Max.  He had to get a nerd to help him with his homework so that Mr. Belding wouldn't give him detention.  He had to climb into Jessie's window and prevent her from taking any more caffeine pills so that she wouldn't feel so excited, or so scared...

...well, okay, you get my point.

The thing is that Zack didn't need to have all those bells and whistles that modern day cell phones have because he found a way to balance everything.  I shudder to think of what might have happened had "Twitter" been invented during the "Saved By The Bell" years.  Everyone would be sitting in front of their neon orange lockers not interacting with anyone in person, but instead posting Instagram photos of Mr. Belding in a clown outfit, or liking a Kelly Kapowski selfie.

And, that would just be boring.  Much like it's boring enough to sit at a lunch table and see everyone else attached to their cell phones ignoring the world around them.

But I choose not to join them.  Surely there must be others out there in the world who can choose to live their lives cell phone free.  I know you're out there!

And for those of you who aren' can break the habit!

Seriously, just try unplugging your phone for 24 hours.  Let your battery drain until it's near empty and go cold turkey for a whole day without even using it once (unless you really have to make a phone call).  I bet most of you will be able to do it.  And, when you do, I bet most of you will find it a refreshing change.

So, that's my challenge to you.  Turn off the phone.  Heck, watch a marathon of Saved By The Bell episodes to get your mind off of it if you like.  But seriously, just do it.  You might enjoy it!  You may even relearn how to communicate without technology!

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