THE VIRTUAL MIRROR-COMPUTER-TEXTING-GAZE
OF THE LONG-LOST SOULS
Are you really there, and am I actually present here?
It’s taken me years to almost adjust to the fact that when
somebody seems to be in my presence, they often are not.
I walk into a fast-food restaurant and it comes my turn to order
from the menu. The fast-food woman smiles at me, wide-eyed
and focused on me…but not really, since I realize that she is
staring at a computer screen that is at eye level, she’s reading
off her questions, and she hasn’t once seen my face—nor will she.
The computer is me, to her.
I enter the living room to greet and chat with a grandchild, but she
only screams in protest when I innocently turn the TV off in order
to visit with her. I thought I was doing us both a favor by reducing
distractions so that we can actually visit with one another. She sees
only the screen and wouldn’t know it if I were wearing a monkey
on my head.
I’m being interviewed on a Cable TV show by an interviewer who never
once looks at me, since she’s staring at herself in the monitor and adjusting
her hair and angle the whole time.
After recording a number of my stories for broadcast on aTuscaloosa
radio station, I attempt to exchange pleasantries with the station manager,
but I suddenly notice that he’s staring at his computer and clicking away
the entire time he talks with me—he is responding to my comments with
generic quips but doesn’t know what I am saying. I slink away and he doesn’t notice.
The game-play kid looks at his lap as he visits with me, his thumb moving
the images around, never once looking at my face.
A texting teen stares enraptured at phone in hand and laughs at what she sees and
what she transmits while almost listening to me but never knowing when the
conversation has ceased.
The hospital orderly with pods in both ears looks at me but does not hear
my question because the music he hears is the thing. I walk away uninformed.
The hospital nurse talks as she enters and reads from the laptop before her,
never seeing me but appropriately answering my questions.
The man whose home I’m visiting watches his enormous television screen
as we chat. He doesn’t see me at all.
I am the interloper, the real flesh and bone person who is no longer needed in
these people’s lives.
In order to have them see me, I will have to become an entity on Twitter and
Facebook and blog and blast and text and email and video-record, I will have
to become a virtual being so that they will recognize me as being real.
I see their flesh, they see my virtual electronic self.
O brave new world. Uh, whatever
© 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed
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