They’re just part of the latest rage: Taylor Swift and One Direction. Both phenomena have been on television recently in concert-like venues, entertaining screaming crowds of fans.
But I kept noticing on both occasions that no matter who was performing, the situation was the same. Screams and smiles might have peppered the crowd, and a few hardy souls even sang along, but invariably there were hundreds, if not thousands, of cameras held aloft. It would have been impossible for the cameramen to catch shots without smart phones front and center.
I was strongly reminded of when my children were young and had special programs at school. Every time we’d have several well-intentioned parents blocking all views, taping their tykes for the sake of Aunt Ida and posterity. We couldn’t even relax and enjoy a simple pageant without a Dad playing contortionist. Did these folks ever really see their children in a show, or just a poorly focused Kodak moment in a crowded family room weeks later after too much ham and turkey?
It seems nowadays every moment has to be “liked” on Facebook or “followed” on Twitter. The authorities have tried to stem the dangerous trend of texting behind the wheel, and some bright advertisers have even made fun of social media, but has it modified behavior? Not so you can tell. If people don’t update their profiles, and then read what we used to just say to one another, they aren’t even trying to communicate.
How many comatose individuals spend hours watching cooking shows on the Food Network, yet don’t even know where their pots and pans are, much less how to use them? How many people buy books on organizational skills and are too discombobulated to throw out all the junk? (Just watch 10 minutes of Hoarders.)
At church one summer, a dear elderly friend who still produced a half-acre garden every year gave me some beautiful tomatoes, vine-ripened and juicy. They seemed still warm from the sun. Knowing better, yet wanting to “save” the moment, I stuffed these treasures in the back of my refrigerator drawer, planning to make really great BLTs some night in the near future.
You know what happened, but I’ll tell you anyway. By the time I remembered those tomatoes and decided to eat them, they were a black and fuzzy mush. What could have been a truly pleasant, not-so-common experience anymore was now a pathetic memory.
This has been what my grandma used to call “a year and a half.” Last March, I became incredibly dizzy driving to work, so much so that I had to pull off the side of Interstate 20 twice and pray frantically. Then I had to fake my “I’m fines” as long as I could in front of 150 teenagers until nature took over and one foot could barely go in front of the other anymore. To cut to the chase, I had to have brain surgery on May 18, after countless uncomfortable and frightening tests to remove what was feared to be a tumor but thankfully turned out to be a benign cyst.
Then, just as I was feeling a bit like myself again, in July I started becoming horribly short of breath, fatigued and swollen. I was referred to a cardiologist who immediately sent me to a thoracic surgeon. Again, after catheterizations, echocardiograms and other procedures, open-heart surgery took place on Sept. 6 to replace an eroded aortic valve. When I woke from surgery, someone had stuffed a garden hose down my throat, tied my hands down and run over me two or three times with an 18-wheeler. Let’s say it wasn’t a great day, unless ice chips from heaven count.
Finally, on Nov. 28, a house I had loved and paid for with great sacrifice out of a meager teacher’s salary, one I had counted on to sell and make all things right, burned two weeks before it was to sell. Because of uncooperative and destructive renters along the way, no one would sell me insurance for it, so I counted on the odds to work in my favor. Dumb-dumb me. Don’t I know that seldom happens?
I share all the events of this unusual year not for sympathy or solace. I just want to pass along what little I’ve gleaned once more. Don’t celebrate the holidays online, or in your dreams. Be where you are and take nothing for granted. God bless us all.
(Mindy Jeffers is a Martinez resident.)