Distracted Among Masses

I walk to work every day. It’s a crisp 25 minutes from the door of my apartment to my desk at work. I experience no stress from parking, traffic, or daring cyclists, and I am joined by hundreds of others, all trudging from one place to another. Some donning suits and others in tennis shoes, we form a mass of humans who are all coming and going, to and from, all directions of the city.

Needless to say, I love this walk.

Typically with OneRepublic in my ear (and still standing behind the belief that their, “Native,” album is one of the best albums of the past few years), I people watch, and soak in the sensory overload that occurs virtually every single morning. This walk gives me energy. There is fluidity and flow, and with music in my ears, I can block out the dull drain the morning noise most often provides.

Feeling my Week 3 groove, I was much more present on my walk to work on Monday morning. While gazing around the street and setting a nice pace for my hike, my focus was interrupted by the sight of a woman trying to ask people for help with directions. She had attempted to gain the attention of two fellow commuters, both who did not hear or see her as a result of wearing their headphones (and almost all around these individuals were equally-headphone’d folks, many staring at their devices).

I was on the other side of the street, and before darting across traffic to help this poor woman (who resembled a desperate me my first few weeks in China), I thankfully saw someone just about jump out of their backpack when they realized this individual was trying to get their attention. They needed to know if they were going the right way on M Street, and the frantics resolved in less than three seconds. I kept my pace, and allowed my mind to wander for a minute.

Is this an accurate representation of what is happening in our world right now?

A sea of people, present, yet distracted. Unfocused. Plugged in.

Distracted masses.

Perhaps, the answer to this is, “No.” And perhaps it’s, “Yes.” Either way, I have never been more aware of how distracted we are as I am this week. And even while remaining physically present. Of course, no one owed this individual an answer or direction or assist. But it would have been nice if it were easier, right? Or if people were just a tad bit more aware? Or if we looked up from time to time?

One of my favorite things to do when walking to-and-from places, is to walk in the path of someone on their phone. Specifically, when I encounter someone with their head buried into their devices (phone, or other), I almost always walk in the exact same path as them, forcing them to look up or to run into me. Time and time again, people will jolt their heads up with a great exclamation or apology.

“My bad.” “I’m so sorry.” “Excuse me.”

My challenge today is to walk in other’s paths. Speak up. Be present. Force a conversation or at least be available to/for one. And to add some dramatics to the whole occasion, watch Gary Turk’s, “Look Up.” Talk about dissonance, talk about perspective. Look up, it’s a great big world out there.

Aware,

Michael

2 thoughts on “Distracted Among Masses

  1. I was just observing this yesterday at a coffee shop! There were 10 people waiting and all but 2 were on mobile devices – many barely looking up to make eye contact and thank the person giving them their coffee. I’m guilty as well – thanks for this reminder!

    Like

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