Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rabbi D-Train's Dare

Dear Henry,
     My name is Danny Wolfe, and I am extremely attached to my cellphone. I constantly am checking my email, regularly looking up useless articles on and spend way too much of my time staring robotically at my iPhone 6.0. 
      For people like me who are obsessively checking our phones, going to the grocery store can be a difficult chore. Because while we shop we are checking items off a grocery list, far removed from our email, Facebook or Twitter apps on our cell phones. That means that when we arrive at the counter, ready to check out, satisfied with our shopping experience, it doesn't take long until we realize that we have not actually checked our email in 25 minutes, or we haven't seen Facebook in that long. We might be thinking, "Oh golly, I haven't seen my email in the last half hour. Maybe someone emailed me telling me I won the lottery, or maybe I got a new 15 percent off coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond! I better check my email now to see if anything like that transpired. And, once I'm done I need to check Facebook because I am sure one of my 1600 "friends" has posted a new status update, and if I don't check now I might miss it! And while we are at it, I need to check Twitter. Adam Schefter might have a breaking update that the Broncos signed Adrian Peterson, or one of my friends may have tweeted about the beer they drank last night! And after that we might feel the need to check our Linked In app even though we don't know how to use it or why it always is sending us notifications. 
        Suddenly we wake up when the sweet cashier says,  "your total is $86.29. Will you be paying with cash or credit?" We then give a half smile and mumble "credit" as we pull out our American Express card which yields 6% cash back on groceries. We swipe the card, sign the receipt, and go on our merry way.
      I am embarrassed to admit it, but I am guilty of this on a regular basis. Let's dissect what happened here: While I was lost browsing useless information on my phone, a human being, created in none other than G-d's image was helping me by scanning and bagging my massive grocery order. And the whole time, rather than have the decency to engage them in conversation and acknowledge their humanity, I basically told them that I was waaaay too busy to acknowledge their existence with all the important business I had to take care of on my phone. And I ask, oh Henry, how would that make you feel, spending 40 hours a week scanning groceries, while hundreds of thankless people totally ignored you, taking your efforts for granted, not even bothering to lift their heads to speak to you?
       Pirkei Avos, the Jewish Talmudical tractate on ethics enjoins us to greet every person "with a kind countenance." The Talmud elsewhere instructs that it is better to give a poor person the white of their teeth (a smile) than white milk to drink. If we are going to reluctantly give a poor person a few coins with a scour on our face, we would be much better off smiling at them and saying "hello," even if we didn't end up giving them any money.  A great rabbi once said that a persons face is like public property; just like if I leave out any harmful objects extending from my property into public property I am liable to pay for the damages, so too a person's face is public property that hundreds of people encounter every day. If the frown on my face damages people, the damage is my responsibility. I will never forget how utterly depressed I felt when I used to take a train to work every day; everyone in the train appeared absolutely miserable, as if they dreaded going to work. How very sad, thought I, that by the looks on their faces, these people spend most of their lives doing something that makes them depressed.
      Thankfully my wife recently listened to a class online from her favorite rebbetzin, who discussed this at length, and mentioned how she is taking it upon herself to not use her phone in public. Hearing this inspired me tremendously, and I sadly realized how guilty I am of overusing my phone in public, particularly while checking out of grocery stores. I decided on that spot that I would take a sort of pledge to cold turkey, stop using my phone in the checkout line. If I would be offended as the oft-ignored cashier, odds are the guy behind the counter also might take offense. Let us try to make the world a better, happier, more meaningful place. I hereby dare all of my thousands upon thousands upon thousands of devoted readers across the vast expanse of the universe to make a commitment to stop using your phones in grocery stores. Heck, I triple dogg dare you. Whose down?

Forever yours,
Danny Wolfe

No comments:

Post a Comment