Many columnists turn into curmudgeons in their advancing years: Now, that I’m entering my sixth decade, it’s my turn to be the crusty old man. 

I’m not sure when it happened but suddenly I’ve become invisible in public places. I’m standing in a store or on the street and someone will walk right “through” me. I guess since I’m a transparent person blocking their path, they don’t feel the need to say, “Excuse me.”

Remember when telephones worked? You picked up a big black receiver, used your other hand to rotary-dial a number and someone picked up, or didn’t. Now, we have the most technologically-advanced phones but I can’t reach anyone. At best, I can leave a voice mail – assuming the mailbox isn’t “full.”

The end of old-fashioned phone communication is especially maddening for an investigator. Most people got rid of their land-lines, so almost every number I call is disconnected. I actually reached a human last week and thanked her for not being disconnected or a voice mail.

As for paper and ink, we’re returning to the pre-papyrus age. I cannot hand “hard copies” of reports, resumes or writing samples to a person even when we’re face-to-face. No, I have to submit the documents on-line. I’m sure job-seekers know what I’m talking about. 

I feel sad about these barriers to human contact and how my e-mails disappear into cyberspace.  Especially, the ones I send to 20-somethings. I don’t want to get down on an entire generation but some of them need to get their act together. Many don’t reply to e-mails or voice messages. There’s a chance they’ll respond to a text. For some, Facebook is the only way to get their attention. 

These Millennials also need to improve their manners. Many don’t send thank you cards or give a verbal thank you, when you give them something. I was also self-absorbed at that age but my parents had taught me how to treat people properly. I learned many of their lessons the hard way. I once snatched some documents from my father’s hand. He looked like he wanted to take a swing at me. Instead, he snarled, “Never take anything out of a person’s hand without asking.” I haven’t tried since.

That moment may have been unpleasant but at least it involved human interaction.  Communication is becoming more impersonal; while machines have made the games I once loved unwatchable. Baseball is slow enough, without a frame-by-frame review showing whether the base runner’s pinky brushed the plate. 

I suppose the dehumanization is just going to get worse. If I didn’t live in a friendly walk-able town like Forest Park, I’d join the crowd and hunker down all day at the computer. But I know there will be rewards just for walking to the store. I will have chance meetings with people I know and like. Once in awhile, though, I have to yell at them to get off my lawn. 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.


John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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