I was in the process of shutting down the coffee/juice bar at my Side Hustle, aka the Uptown Dallas Whole Foods, when I heard the overhead speakers announcing that the store was closing. All customers were invited to go to a register as soon as possible to complete their purchases. I still don’t know what happens if someone refuses. Maybe they get tazed and tossed into the compost bins. Maybe we lock them in and they magically evolve into new employees overnight, chanting the virtues of organic kale, essential oils, and kombucha during their transformation. Or maybe vicious, free-range dogs fed a humanely-raised diet are released upon refusing customers.
Whoops, I have digressed.
Anyway, as I listened to the announcement, my attention was drawn to the upwardly-mobile man in the pea coat, dark jeans, and hip shoes. He stared at the pre-cut fruit, trying to decide which container had the best melon-to-strawberry ratio. He was oblivious to what was going on around him because he had his earphones in his ears.
I tell people to “have an organic day” and they can’t even hear my joke
“Relax, Coffee Boy,” you might say. “I like having a soundtrack to my life. I enjoy having Beyoncé sing me home during my commute. I feel like a movie star when Death Cab for Cutie is blaring while I do my makeup. I have to play music while I work or I might die of boredom.”
I get it. I really do. I have earphones in as I type this blog post. I just discovered Sjowgren, The Epochs, & Polica and I love nodding my head to them as I drive through downtown Dallas, weaving between all the haters on the freeways.
As the character Russell Hammond so perfectly said (while hanging with Real Topeka People) in the movie Almost Famous, “I dig music.” Music is awesome. I play bass & guitar so there’s an even deeper level of appreciation I have for the music I listen to throughout my day.
However, I need to ask you a question that haunts me: What are we missing by actively blocking out everything around us?
I see a growing number of customers in my Whole Foods who leave their headphones on the entire time they shop. I tell people to “have an organic day” and they can’t even hear my joke. I told a woman recently that “he can’t hear you but I think those flowers look great” as her partner walked away with his earpods in his ears while she stopped to consider buying a bouquet of flowers. What floored me was that she wasn’t even angry… she just accepted his lack of awareness.
Earlier this year, I spent five weeks at “Trauma Camp.” I learned a lot while I was there and one of the most priceless gifts I was given was contentment.
One guy was at Trauma Camp to detox. I remember watching his shaking hands as he ate dinner. I remember seeing his perspiring forehead as his body went through alcohol withdrawals. His body was learning how to be content without alcohol coursing through his bloodstream.
While most of us weren’t detoxing from a substance, we were all detoxing from our cell phones.
One of the first things you surrender when you are admitted into a psychiatric facility is your smartphone. During my first few days at Trauma Camp I kept glancing down at my empty hand. I would reach into my back pocket without even realizing what I was reaching for. That’s what cell phone detox looks like. It’s not shaking hands or a sweaty face; it’s a constant, nagging desire to check the news, fill a moment with music, or Instagram a picture of a cool rock.
Later in my stay, I was sitting outside one evening and watching the sun disappear behind the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I sat in total silence with a couple of other people. None of us felt the need to fill the moment with noise. There was no desire to Instagram the moment. The moment was rich and full by itself. It didn’t need to be anything other than a sunset with friends.
When I look back on those desert sunsets just outside of Santa Fe, the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that a cell phone would have ruined those moments. That little camera couldn’t take in the grandeur. The likes on Instagram couldn’t equal to the calm I felt doing nothing but being in moment.
Music might have enhanced the moment… but only for me. It would have pulled me out of the community and isolated me.
I don’t know about you but I need more community, not less.
I crave more connection with people.
And, for me, it starts with taking the goddamn earphones out.