In addition to the coffee and scones, I enjoy visiting downtown’s Centre Street Amelia Island Coffee Shop to chat with folks, read a newspaper or magazine, or just people-watch.
During a recent afternoon visit Linda and I sat next to a delightful quartet of Fernandina Beach High School girls who were studiously working on algebra homework. Not only were they diligently absorbed in their efforts, but they were collaborating, laughing, having friendly conversation, and acting like normal, healthy teenagers. They weren’t staring at cell phones or iPads, etc. and ignoring their table companions. It was obvious they were enjoying each other’s company.
When we asked them a question they politely responded with “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am.” The parents and teachers of these young ladies are obviously doing a good job at home and in the classroom.
These young girls were an exception as during a return visit on a recent Sunday morning after settling in with a mug of coffee and surveying the packed room, I observed a different scenario. I saw singles, groups, and couples, young and old, all with one thing in common — they were staring down at cell phones or tablets. They didn’t acknowledge their table mates, not even looking up when spoken to. Instead they concentrated on their tiny glowing phone screens, clicking away a beautiful day. It was depressing.
But the coffee shop isn’t the only place I’ve observed folks sitting by themselves in a crowded room. I can’t count the number of times in a grocery store when I’ve turned to respond to someone I assumed was talking to me only to discover they had a mobile device stuck in their ear, carrying on a conversation with a person on the other end. When I ask “Did you say something to me?” they dismiss me with a wave of a hand. Bars and restaurants are full of guests talking to everyone but the people they are with because they’re busy playing games, checking email, Facebook messages, etc. At store checkout counters I’ve watched phone-mesmerized customers click away on their devices as the cashier rings up their purchases, not once making eye contact or acknowledging the cashier. Rude? It is beyond rude.
The other day while watching a Spring Training Washington Nationals-Boston Red Sox Spring Training baseball game on TV I observed a “fan” directly behind home plate staring at his phone instead of the game. Why would you pay for an expensive seat behind home plate if you weren’t going to watch the game?
Before cell phones existed I couldn’t imagine going to a restaurant with family or friends and opening and reading my mail? Nor would I pull out a stack of photos of the family dog or a photo of the meal I ate yesterday and pass them around. When I pay to attend a sporting event, I watch the event, and talk about the game with companions and others seated around me, not read a newspaper or magazine or stare at a cell phone. As a young man when socializing with friends we talked to each other. I never stuck my nose in a magazine or newspaper and ignored the banter. Had I done so it wouldn’t have taken long for my friends to stop inviting me to join them.
A couple of essays I read recently vividly describe how cell phone addiction has negatively impacted all aspects of our lives ranging from personal relationships to health — mentally and physically.
In a piece titled “For Gen Z, Lessons in Dating” Elizabeth Bernstein writes: “Educators say the current generation is uniquely bad at romance. Online dating has created a (false) feeling of an endless buffet of romantic choices. And mobile technology — which this generation has never lived without — has been a security blanket of sorts that has kept them from developing solid in-person communication skills.”
In his book “The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America” Tommy Tomlinson tells his story of how obesity negatively impacts his life. He cites some startling Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics estimating “that 70 million American adults — 40 percent of women, and 35 percent of men qualify as obese. The obesity rate among American children is 17 percent and climbing.” I believe much weight of that can be traced to inactivity caused by iPad, iPods, cell phones, etc.
Today’s electronic landscape illustrates something a work companion once told me when he said: “Twenty years ago the Internet was an escape from the real world. Today the real world is an escape from the Internet.”
The other day while a friend and I were discussing this issue he referred me to a September 2017 article in the “Atlantic” by Jean Twenge that clarifies what’s happening to society.
In the article headlined “Have Smart Phones Destroyed a Generation?” Ms. Twenge says instead of making people happy smart phones are doing the opposite. And, as the headline of her story implies, the biggest losers are teenagers.
For example, she cites a survey that claims the number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015. She says that it’s not only a matter of fewer kids partying; fewer kids are spending time simply hanging out. “That’s something most teens used to do: nerds and jocks, poor kids and rich kids, C students and A students. The roller rink, the basketball court, the town pool, the local necking spot—they’ve all been replaced by virtual spaces accessed through apps and the web.”
She elaborated saying: “You might expect that teens spend so much time in these new spaces because it makes them happy, but most data suggest that it does not. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including non-screen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.
She explained the Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. “But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation,” she adds. “Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements ‘A lot of times I feel lonely,’ ‘I often feel left out of things,’ and ‘I often wish I had more good friends.’ Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.”
She concluded that depression among teens is soaring and smart phones are to blame. “The effect of screen activities is unmistakable: The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.”
I saw evidence of that with the happy, talkative young girls at the coffee shop. And I’ve seen silent lonely groups of kids staring mindlessly into their glowing screens.
I don’t have an answer but suspect one can be found at home.
A Stinky Proposition: If Nassau County hurries it may be able to capitalize on Florida’s illusive Skunk-Ape, calling it its own and cashing in on its notoriety before any other Florida municipality acts.
Nassau County officials could follow the example of Washington State, which recently passed legislation making Sasquatch, the official “cryptid or crypto-animal” of Washington. The bill recognizes the reclusive hominoid for its “immeasurable contributions to Washington’s cultural heritage and ecosystem” whatever any of that means.
As far as I know no other Florida county or city has adopted the legendary Skunk-Ape, so I suggest Nassau County act before another municipality cashes in on the creature’s infamy. Why not? Like Sasquatch, it won’t cost anything to house or feed him since nobody even knows if he actually exists. And think of all the possible events and attractions that can be built around the stinky swamp critter.
Restaurants could offer Skunk-Ape specials like Skunk-Ape Swill; bands could come up with creative names such as the Skunk-Ape Trio and the Skunkettes; Skunk-Ape events such as the Skunk- Ape Look-a-Like and Skunk-Ape Smell-a-Like contests would pop up; Skunk-Ape versus Fernandina Pirates wrestling competitions would attract paying crowds; Skunk-Ape Halloween costumes would be very popular. A county high school could change its nick name name to the Skunk-Apes and its cheerleaders could taunt the other team chanting “You Stink Worse Than Us” at games. There could be an annual Skunk-Ape Festival much like the Shrimp Fest that would generate millions of dollars and nationwide publicity…the possibilities and fun are unlimited. And there are no royalties to be paid.
A couple of brothers — Dave and Jack Shealy — run something called Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee, Florida in the Everglades, but as far as I know no municipality has laid claim to being the “home” of Skunk-Ape. So let’s get moving folks.
Another Stinky County Issue: Nassau County residents that have been accustomed to dumping a variety of junk ranging from residential construction materials and demolition debris to yard waste and rental clean-out trash at the Callahan Convenience Recycle Center are going to have to find another place willing to accept their stuff.
According to an article by Mary Maguire in the online Nassau County Florida Independent whole houses being cleaned out and brought to the center are overwhelming it. Betty Diden who works with the county solid waste organization, told Ms. Maguire that the recycling center collected an average of 87 tons per month in fiscal year 2016-2017, and in fiscal year 2017-2018 received 93 tons per month. This year, six months in to the fiscal year, she the average is up to 113 tons per month. That’s more than they can handle says Ms. Diden.
As a result the County Commissioners approved regulations — that will become effective April 2 — establishing regulations for waste materials accepted at the Convenience Recycle Center located at 46026 Landfill Rd Callahan. Residential construction, demolition debris and yard waste will not be accepted; no more than two loads of waste materials in a seven-day period will be accepted; no rental or foreclosure clean outs will be allowed; no over-sized trailer loads (nothing over 6 x 10, no double axle trailers); and only in-county residential waste delivered by Nassau County residents will be accepted. More information can be found by going to http://www.nassaucountyfl.com/368/Convenience-Recycling-Center that includes a complete listing of items that are accepted and load/size limits or by calling Ms. Diden at 904-530-6700.
Authority Speaks To Port Authority: The Fernandina Port gets a prestigious boost today, Friday, March 29, as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross pays a visit to talk up the port’s strategic value to the community and the country with its growing overall economic importance as a gateway to global trade with South America, Europe and Asia. Secretary Ross will speak to a group of local business people and area officials on the lawn of the Port’s former Quartermaster House at 2:15 p.m. following a tour of the facility with Port Director Laura DiBella and Christopher Ragucci, CEO of Worldwide Terminals, Fernandina, the port operator.
Beach Access Issue: Just in time for Spring Break the City of Fernandina Beach closed 12 beach access sites because it says the boardwalks are in need of repair. The timing appears odd coming just days before crowds start swarming the beaches and the city only now noticed that the access areas need repair. Apparently the city doesn’t practice preventive maintenance by having folks checking walks to ensure they’re ready for the the demand this time of year. And don’t any of the employees who drive around in all those City of Fernandina Beach trucks have a tool belt? I’ve heard grumbling that the city delayed acting sooner so folks will start demanding something be done to pay for the needed repairs….maybe paid parking?
Windmills Of His Kind: Of all the Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to run against President Donald Trump in 2020 my favorite so far is the arm-waving human windmill called Beto O’Rourke, just because he’s so doggone goofy. Just hours before the Mueller Report came out exonerating the President, O’Rourke was reported saying: “You have a president, who in my opinion beyond the shadow of a doubt, sought to, however, hamhandedly collude with the Russian government to undermine and influence our elections, etc. etc., etc.”, ad nauseam. Just a few hours later, once the report was released, he went dead silent. Here’s a Texan, who not only doesn’t want to build a border wall, but said on TV he wants to tear the existing barrier down. A Reuters article reported that on a recent stop in New Mexico he ate dirt there because he said it had regenerative powers. He even brought some home for his family to eat. Reuters said he also put poop from one of his kid’s diapers in a bowl he gave to his wife, telling her it was an avocado. Honest, I’m not making this stuff up. And that was after he pranked her with shower scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Physco.” This guy’s a laugh a minute. Reuters reported that in his youth he was a member of a computer hacking group, wrote a story about killing children, and fantasized about toppling the U.S. government. Democrats are a bizarre lot, but no matter how peculiar, I bet most would send regrets if invited to this guy’s house for dinner. Please, please nominate him as it would make the election and the debates so much fun.