A few days ago I was sitting at a stop light in a downtown area near Seattle, WA. While waiting for the light to change, I noticed a woman crossing the street while talking on her mobile phone.
This caught my attention because I frequently have conversations with whomever will listen about how unconscious so many people tend to be -- especially when mobile phones are involved.
The topic of people crossing busy streets while engrossed in a phone conversation or texting had recently come up with a friend of mine. This friend, like me, has lived in Mexico. In Mexico, cars have the right of way, not pedestrians. Pedestrians can cross a street any time, anywhere. They just have to watch out for the cars.
I have frequently thought the Mexican law is actually safer for pedestrians, because they have to be conscious and take responsibility for their own well being.
If a pedestrian is depending on the cars to watch out for them (especially when they are crossing with the light at a cross walk), they tend to become less conscious and alert. When a person knows they have to take responsibility for their own well being, rather than assuming that other people will be looking out for them, they stay more alert, and probably a lot safer.
I live part of the year near Seattle and part of the year in Puerto Vallarta, MX. In both areas, I tend to walk more than I drive. When I moved to the downtown area near Seattle, I realized that as I walked to work, the store, etc., my safety as a pedestrian was MY responsibility. If I got hit by a car while in a crosswalk, it would be MY fault, even if I were in the right.
Which brings me back to the woman crossing the street while talking on her mobile phone. As I watched her cross six lanes of busy downtown traffic, something seemed wrong. Not only was she crossing a busy intersection while engrossed in a phone conversation, but about the time she got about half way across the intersection, I realized that she was actually walking against the light!
This woman crossed six lanes of traffic, talking on her phone, with cars jamming on their brakes, honking their horns, swerving to avoid her -- and she never missed a beat. She never looked up, acted startled, or even seemed to notice the cars. When she got across the street, she looked down at her phone, keyed in another number, and started talking again, as if she were walking across a quiet meadow.
While an extreme example, this form of unconsciousness is the norm, not the exception. Everywhere I travel, I see people doing all kinds of unconscious things:
Driving below the speed limit in the left lane of the freeway.
Stopping in the middle of the isle in busy malls and supermarkets as if they were the only ones around.
Talking incessantly to whomever will listen.
Watching hours of mindless television, surfing the Internet for porn, and playing video games.
Drinking, smoking, eating, and drugging themselves into oblivion.
In case I might be coming across as just a little bit judgmental, I have as much tendency to go unconscious as the next person.
What’s the answer?
I often said that what every mall needs are a few hungry tigers on the prowl.
Can you imagine how exciting shopping would be if you actually had to be alert to the possibility of a hungry tiger lurking in the shoe department at Nordstrom? You would actually feel more alive and alert when you went to buy shoes!
Imagine going to work, school, the movies, or your local Starbucks and actually having to pay attention to what was going on around you!
Not too many thousands of years ago, our human ancestors traveled miles every day foraging for food and other necessities of survival with a sign on their backs that read, “EAT ME.” The realities of their survival are actually what led to the amazing evolution of the human brain -- and the ability to stay conscious!
Unfortunately, so many aspects of current culture have fostered the ability to walk through life mostly unconscious without too many serious consequences. As a result, I believe we might just be “de-evolving” as a species.
We human beings are blessed to be one of a few species of animals that have developed the ability to be conscious. We can either spit in Mother Nature’s face and eat, talk, drink, and distract ourselves into puddles of nothingness. Or we can thank Mother Nature and put the phone down, turn the television off, throw the Cheetos in the garbage can, and start using the part of our brain that distinguishes us from the majority of other living creatures who have walked the planet.
Where do we start?
How about this simple suggestion? Once or twice a day, stop whatever you are doing and do just one thing at a time.
If you are driving, turn off the radio and phone and drive.
If you are eating, eliminate all distractions and just pay attention to your food.
If you are exercising, pay complete attention to your exercise.
If you are talking to someone, look the person in the eye and really listen without distraction or thinking about what you plan to say next.
If you are having sex, truly fuck the person you are with.