From our overstocked archives
Sam Smith, 2013 - Watching a woman pull her bag from the train overhead bag compartment, stuff some papers into it and make her way to the door – all the time never removing her bent head from the cellphone stuck between it and her shoulder, I noticed that she at no point opened her mouth. She might have been listening to a podcast or her favorite aria, but there was absolutely no reaction to whatever sound was emanating from the object.
The incident occurred not long after I had been alternately fascinated and beleaguered by a guy on another cellphone who hardly ever stopped talking between Boston and Newark.
It all raised a question that I have not dared to ask publicly for fear it might reveal a piece of personal paranoia. But in such cases I wonder: what if there is no one on the other end of the phone?
Could that explain the explosion of people in America who seem to have so many more friends, clients and business partners than I?
And if they really are talking to real people why do they not smile, frown, or look puzzled? Why do they say so little?
The ones who fascinate me the most are the couples who get off a plane or a train and immediately turn away from each other, start staring at their cellphones, and lose all reference to their physical partner. What’s going on? Are they checking in with their secret lovers?
Even before cellphones, I had enjoyed watching people in public places seriously attempting to look serious, especially when they’re walking. Their speed, determination, eye focus and don’t interfere with me look sets them apart. I sometimes want to go up and ask them what time it is but I’m afraid I might be charged with assault.
And so I just watch them silently, an inferior, friendless person without purpose in life waiting for a train while they speed on to their 2:30 pm appointment.