Sunday, July 21, 2013

Business Trips and Stupid Cellphones


Dear Henry,
       Tomorrow morning I embark upon another 'business trip' which requires flying somewhere, and saying goodbye to my family for a few days. This morning, as I received a call from a computer who works for United Airlines, kindly asking me if I cared to have him/her check me in, (see my post for a more vivid account of computers who talk to me ), I was reminded of the last time I went away on a 'business trip' away from the family. Heck, it was only like 10 days ago, so its hard to forget.
       Basically, two weeks ago I attended a conference with over 100 other immensely talented rabbis not unlike myself,  and then had some other internal meetings. I began to notice as I went away, that it was very hard to keep in touch with my other half, my lovely, beautiful wife, (see for more on this), and my delicious sweet, precious children. Paradoxically, I found it even harder to keep in touch with them on my local business trip, than when I go to Israel for birthright trips. On a birthright trip, with my wife seven-hours behind me, by the time my day was over, and ready for bed, she was available to talk, just having fed the kids dinner. And I would be able to see (via Skype) my beautiful family before falling fast asleep, after a jam-packed day shlepping around Israel. I would then set my alarm to a very early hour in the morning, so that I would catch my wife right before she goes to sleep, and she would catch me up more on what happened in the last 6 hours, and I would catch her up, on what happened in my last 6 hours--admittedly, not too much.  I would thus cap my mornings, and my evenings with the daily hi-lights of my trip-- seeing my beautiful family. Henry, right about now, you might be asking where exactly I am going with this whole shpiel. Heck-- I'm asking myself where I am going with this whole thing. The point is, that not being on the same schedule--being an ocean apart-- made it easier to be in touch-- precisely because we were not on the same schedule.
       Two weeks ago, being in meetings and sessions all day, it was darn near impossible to be in touch with my wonderful, beautiful, sweet, adorable, and adoring, wife and kids. Being in the same time zone, we were both going, nonstop, all day.  By the time I was ready to shluffie, she had been sleeping for a few hours. I would call her early in the morning, but she is physical unable to speak, or move, in the mornings. Six and a half of the best years of my life (marriage) has taught me that not everyone is a chipper morning person like yours truly.  However, while I was on a trip to Israel, we didn't have this problem, because when I was waking up, at 6:00 AM, so was she- at 11:00 PM.
      The point of that awkwardly long introduction was that I learned from my last trip that it was darn hard to be in touch with my beautiful, adorable, loving family. And that was very hard. So on Thursday morning, after having been gone since Monday morning, I made sure to be at the airport super early, as I could not physically wait anymore to see my family. My kids were pumped up for me to pick them up from camp, and my wife was just as excited to see my beautiful, aging face. All of us were ecstatic to at long last catch up on the last 5 days. When I finally got to the gate, after waiting in a very long line, they were advertising that the flight was overbooked, and they were offering a $500 flight voucher if anyone would volunteer their seat. My flight was leaving at 8:30 AM- the next one was leaving at 3:00 PM, getting to Cleveland at 5:00. Apparently, no one was all that impressed with the $500 offer, so United bumped it up to offering $700 to anyone who gave up their seat. I didn't blink. It wasn't worth it. I told my kids I would pick them up from camp- golly-- I was going to pick them up from camp, and no amount of money was going to deter me. I later realized that my flight got in at around 10:30 AM. My kids got out of camp at about 3:00 PM. Thus- if I would have taken the $700, and gotten in at 5:00-- I would have only missed out on two hours of quality time with my kids, who would be eagerly waiting in the car to pick me up from the airport, if I opted for the later flight. And yet, as I look back, those two extra hours with the kids was worth every penny of the $700 that United tried to give me in order to sacrifice those two precious hours. I would choose spending two hours with my children, all day, every day, over a lousy $700 flight voucher from United.
       Once I made this realization, oh Henry, I learned a very valuable lesson that applies not only to my own life, but likely also to the lives of those thousands of my devoted readers out there in Canada, Israel, Turkey, India, and the United Arab Emirates. And that is, Henry, that time in general-- and quality time with loved ones in particular-- is a very, very valuable gift. Certainly more valuable than a $700 flight. So I asked myself when I caught myself reading ESPN on my Iphone 4S, while playing with my kids-- what the heck am I doing? Now I have the privilege of interacting with my delicious children, and I am reading about a Gators Linebacker who got arrested for barking at a police dogg? Are you kidding me? How can I waste such a precious gift-- this valuable time with my children? How many of us don't know our loved ones because we are too busy watching TV with them, instead of interacting and communicating with them? How much of us would only have a conversation with a loved one, if only we both wouldn't constantly be checking our text messages? How many of us are spending more time with angry birds than we are with our increasingly angry loved ones and family members? Its time that all of us-- yours truly especially included-- leave the phones upstairs, and start enjoying and experiencing the ones we love.
       If I can pass up on $700 at the expense of losing two hours with my family, doesn't it make sense that I should also be able to pass up on Facebook for a few lousy hours? We all cognitively know what's really important in life. Its about time we start living according to this basic understanding. Henry, For a MINIMUM of thirty minutes a day, commit to turn off your stupid cellphone. It will change all of our lives.
         My name is Danny Wolfe, and I approve this Message.

         Danny Wolfe