Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Year of Living Telepathically, one year without a cell phone Part II

©2011 Odilia Rivera Santos

Today, the sun shone like nobody's business. People were walking around with wet handkerchiefs and water bottles wrapped in aluminum foil. I decided to go for a two-hour power walk while listening to Sister Nancy, Toni Tuff, Eek a mouse and Billy Boyo. It felt like a day for reggae music as I stomped up and down hills in my tall Earth shoes. On a two-hour walk, I normally would check my phone 20 times, glancing at invitations, Facebook Status updates, friends' texts, email messages, and answering a ring. Today, the phone was a dead metal square useful only for 911 calls and strangely enough, Facebook email messages and my status update response notifications.
I watched the teenagers in Harlem run around, acting out the exuberance I remember feeling during the last days of school; theirs is an eagerness to mismanage time as only a teenager can do, as opposed to the structure provided by reasonable adults.
I sat down in a corner at my favorite Starbucks,the one with big windows, where French-speaking Africans, native-born African-Americans, and entrepreneurs of color congregate to look past each other as they are sucked into the vortex of a screen and their ears plugged with Ipod headphones. Each of us creating our own ambience, each of us the star of our own film with our own soundtrack.
I was thinking about autonomy and how it is the new American dream. People don't want to rely on others due to a fear others are not dependable or that the carrot they've chased in the past is a dead letter. We, the fearless dreamers, sit at Starbucks with the idea that one idea will make us a fortune. And when I say fearless, I am being facetious. There are deadlines, bills, and the in and out ratio to pay attention to. Is money going in the right direction?
That is the real question.
Lost in thought, I glanced out the window and saw a tiny girl, weighing about 75 pounds, flit across and a large man chasing after her. I immediately went into cop-head. I have never been a police officer, but I can suspend my disbelief long enough to convince myself I am one.
I immediately told the man next to me to call the cops, and I got up and grabbed my bag.
I decided if he touched her, I would go outside and deal with it. The man next to me called the cops, the big man grabbed the little girl's bag;he tried to grab her by the arm. She was like lightning, whipping her little arm out of the way before he could touch her. The girl, who was about twelve, ran like an olympian, and he was left holding her bag.
This scene played out as if from a movie. I thought about how confronting a stranger, and, perhaps, getting my ass kicked in the process didn't frighten me at all. I thought about the time I stepped out of a bodega, turned the corner and ended up between a cop and a suspect. The cop was pointing the gun and he yelled, "Police! Get out of the way!"
Those things did not frighten me as much as falling in love.
It was a startling revelation and a testament to how important it is to let silence creep in sometimes, so one may have such epiphanies.
I never knew disconnecting from my cell phone would allow me to look at my greatest fear in the face and say, ok, I surrender. I am ready to handle this.

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  1. Wow, you said a lot here. First off, nice playlist. I was just listening to Junior Reid.

    As for the future . . . autonomy will never work. We need to learn to work together for any advancement to happen. Maybe the way the members of a tribe each have their job to do. Now if we could figure out how to do this in a way that wouldn't trample each individuals rights then that right there is your pot of gold.

    I don't know how I would've reacted to that dangerous situation. Maybe I would've frozen in astonishment. I probably would've yelled something out. Luckily no one was hurt.

  2. A lot of people are experimenting with autonomy, keeping an emotional distance in personal relationships and working alone. It is the end of the line for the rabid individualism American culture sometimes encourages. It doesn't work because we are social animals and need to interact with others. About the scene playing outside the window -- NYC is always entertaining.
    Thanks for reading,