Sunday, October 02, 2005

Talkin' to myself and feelin' old

Earlier today I drove by some old guy with a scruffy white beard, standing by himself on a busy street corner. He was just standing there, talking out loud to himself, not another human being within earshot. Crazy old coot, I said to myself.

But then I caught myself. Maybe he's not talking to himself. Maybe he's talking on a cell phone. No phone to be seen, of course, but that didn't mean anything. Maybe he had a corded headset, and instead of talking to himself, he was talking to his sister in Des Moines.

Except I didn't see a cord, and I didn't see a headset. Still, he could have one of those cordless Bluetooth dealies, the ones that are no bigger than a cockroach and fit right inside your ear. Yeah, that's probably it, talking on his Bluetooth headset to his sister in Des Moines.

Although I looked really close as I drove by, and I didn't see anything sticking into or out of his ear. So maybe he really was a crazy old coot, talking to himself in the middle of the day on a busy street corner.

You see, you can't tell anymore who's crazy and who's high-tech. Mental illness has the same outward appearance as high-tech cell phone usage. You walk down any street or shopping mall and you see dozens of people talking out loud to no one in particular. They're either all a bunch of loonies or they're all talking to their sisters in Des Moines. One or the other.

This might be the biggest difference someone from the past might find if they awoke in our 21st century future. Someone fast forwarded from the 1960s would see all these people walking around and talking to themselves, and think either that there's been a vast outbreak of mental disorders or that we've developed some really good drugs. The concept of constant communication via cellular technology wouldn't occur to them.

Of course, maybe we are all crazy, even if we're talking on the mobile to our sisters in Des Moines. In my opinion, you have to be crazy to want to be in such constant contact with other people. What's wrong with a little personal time? Up until recently, that's all we had.

And, before advent of always-on cell phones and cockroach-sized earpieces, if you saw someone talking to himself, you knew he was a little tetched in the head. There wasn't any question about it.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

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