Oh, No!

“Entire books are being written about the distractions of social media.”

Howard Rheingold

Tuesday morning marks the final moments of a wonderful fun-filled trip; it is time to return home. Before walking our six-year old pet companion River, who accompanied us on this journey, Carol organizes her morning prescriptions, a routine scene River knows quite well – he patiently waits.

Nine days ago, the three of us left our home in Theodore, Alabama, for a two and one-half hour trek to the dog-friendly Nopsi Hotel in downtown New Orleans.  Having just enjoyed a scenic fishing trip with friends in Venice, Louisiana, we are eager to participate in our favorite transportation conference, the CLDA. A combination of business and fun with friends and peers is colored by the atmosphere of “The Big Easy.”  And, we look forward to rich conversation about our experience as we journey home following the conference.

“Oh, no!” I hear Carol exclaim. The tone emanating from the other room is a sounding alarm that something isn’t right.  With instant communication through texting and emailing, I imagine that she has just read some bad news from a family member or friend. Carol’s rattled expression is familiar, but I am completely unprepared for the shocking and perplexing scenario that follows!

“I cannot find River’s medicine! I believe that I took his medicine by mistake along with mine!”  Quickly I move toward Carol. This did not just happen. How can I make it go away? What does this mean? Is the next stop the hospital? A tsunami of questions encircles my mind!

Armed with over four decades of experience within a fast-paced industry, where occurrences regularly require a quick response, we both jump into action. We discuss next moves. Carol immediately texts our family doctor describing her mistake. Gathering Carol and River’s medication, we walk at a fast pace toward the elevator door.

As we reach the ground floor, Carol is keeping the line open with our family pharmacist. Explaining our pending disaster to the Nopsi Hotel concierge, I ask for details for the nearest urgent care facility. Quickly grabbing a map, he writes down the exact address, circling the location. Urgently flagging a taxi, I am relieved to note that clinical help is just six blocks away.

By the time we reach the urgent care facility, our pharmacist has assured Carol that she is in no imminent danger.  Sleepiness might be the biggest effect she suffers today. With the burden somewhat lifted, I request that the cab driver take us back to the hotel.  I finally feel some relief.

How did this happen? Carol tells me that after laying out the medicine, she was distracted by texts from her iPad. Sidetracked momentarily from the morning medicine routine, she responds to one of the incoming texts. This is somewhat a phenomenon we have all experienced – being in a conversation with one person or engrossed in a task when our focus is interrupted by blinking electronic neon lights beckoning our attention. Halting current tasks or thought processes, attention is drawn to the noise maker – the attention distractor.

In Carol’s situation, it was interruption from something very important – taking  her medicine while simultaneously dispensing medicine for our family pet. Fortunately for Carol, the mistake was not life-threatening. Sadly, that is not the case in every situation.

One example – one we all know too well – is the number of deaths caused by distracted drivers. Even though Department of Transportation statistics have shown a slight improvement recently, many more deaths are projected in the near future. More will occur before we make a serious dent in this horrible problem.

While we all agree that perpetual life and death situations cry out for a change in behavior, there are other negative outcomes occurring because of distractions. Unfortunately, there is no indicator that the frequency of diversions will be eradicated soon or even within the long-term. Purportedly, the ever-increasing electronic apps are designed to enable us to accomplish more tasks in less time, thus supposedly making our lives easier – when in reality, the devices are also disrupting, at supersonic speeds, everything in our lives. Everything!

I wrote about this problem recently in a blog titled Phubbing. One of the most destructive losses from this new electronic world is in our relationships. And success in life is centered around relationships.

There are no small moments. An opportunity — the privilege to talk with someone who is important in our lives – is unduplicated. It will never happen again. And the reflective part of the moment when we receive cherished conversation, which we instinctively process internally, will never be repeated.

As we return to the hotel, I purposely refrain from lecturing Carol on this rare mistake. She feels pretty bad about the error.  I simply tell her that it is in the rearview mirror and counsel her to use the experience in the future to prevent a similar mistake. She agrees.

Sharing this story with family and friends is totally congenial – we smile in our sigh of relief. Joking with others, I tell them that the only long-term negative element is that I noticed that our beloved Carol has been ‘barking’ more lately!  We enjoy some comedy now because it ended well. But, what about all the endings created by electronic distractions that are not so good or reparable?

There is no humor to be found when relationships suffer major damage due to electronic interference. “No phubbing” should be more than just a present-day saying. Alarms should sound! In our strongest voices, we need to loudly proclaim to our family, friends and ourselves an important directive to preserve calmness and peace:

Put the phone away when interacting socially!

More than a success principle, it has now become a success mandate.
Put our phones away.

Success is being and becoming the best at what I am meant to be and do in life. That best person is going to be molded through many relationship moments, the ones we cannot afford to miss.  We owe it to others to give them our undivided attention. We owe it to our own journey toward success in life.

Oh, Yes!