Western history has always had those who suspected that the next generation, or the next big technology -- or both -- would be the one that finally brought everything to a crashing halt, that we're always hanging on by the skin of our teeth.
I've always been enough of an optimist to ignore such doomsday predictions. Until Monday.
Monday was a warm, sunny day, and the day when I began to suspect that texting just might be the thing that does our species in. At least it certainly stands fair to thin out the herd by quite a bit (which doesn't sound quite so bad, now that I think about it a little).
Exhibit 1: Near Lombard and Farmington in Beaverton, a fellow was cruising down the bike lane on his skateboard, probably going about seven or eight mph, staring at his smart phone, when the front wheels hit a break in the pavement and the board simply stopped, propelling him off the front end like Wile E. Coyote. He managed to keep his footing and hang onto the phone. He retrieved the board and went on his way, none the worse (and arguably none the wiser).
Exhibit 2: About ten minutes later, in the Fred Meyer parking lot, a car was simply stopped, blocking traffic from three directions. The driver was staring at her lap. I was in the one unblocked lane, which meant I was able to look in the driver's side window as I passed. She was texting. I helpfully called out the proper greeting for such a moment*, and she looked up at me with a mixture of astonishment and indignation -- and continued texting.
Since I'm a netbook-and-dumb-phone kind of guy myself, I was a little worried that I might just be having one of those intergenerational “hey you kids, get off of my lawn” moments. So I've talked this over with several of my friends who are most seriously into texting. I'm talking about the ones who text the person in the next room to see if they want to go get coffee. The ones who have conducted entire relationships -- from introduction to courtship to day-after to break-up -- exclusively via text.
These friends all agreed. Those people were suicidally crazy.
So I don't think it's just me. Texting could wind up being the human race's giant meteor.
*That would be Hang up and drive, dummy!