Cruising on autopilot

Ever wonder why people spend their hard-earned money on tickets to a concert or play and then, when they arrive at the venue, are too busy texting away, checking email or talking on their phone to take even the slightest interest in what they actually paid for? Well, if you answered “yes” to that question, you’re not alone.

I noticed this during our recent cruise vacation — an event that can be considerably more expensive than a concert or a night at the theater. One would think if the scenery and the events associated with today’s cruise itineraries weren’t enough to get a cellphone junkie’s attention, the money they’re spending would help them snap back to reality. But that wasn’t the case — at least on our ship. Despite the fact that we were on a virtual floating hotel with all kinds of great activities to keep us occupied, it was hard to ignore so many passengers who were glued to their phones. This happened poolside, where those permanently attached to their phones seemed oblivious to the steel band playing great music or the stunning blue waters of the Caribbean laid out before us. It happened over and over again in the restaurants, where the busy wait staff did their best to bring out one exquisite appetizer and entrée after another to show off the staff’s culinary talents. Some of the passengers barely seemed able to put down their phones before picking up their fork. Granted, we weren’t exactly on a luxury liner, but cruises in general offer great experiences with quality food and entertainment.

As I said, if you agree, then you’ll be reassured to know that you are not alone. This was affirmed on the final night of our voyage. We were all packed and decided before heading to bed to visit one of our favorite lounges on the ship — a lounge that provided great live music with a talented young band that played hits from the ’70s and ’80s. It was a popular gathering spot with a large dance floor. The only problem was the dance floor: Besides a few baby boomer couples — including me and my husband — it was pretty much empty. The lounge was full, but quite a few of the passengers were not exactly listening to the music or even tapping their toes. How could they be when instead they were doing something or another on their phones? It was so prevalent that the night club host just couldn’t take it any longer. Toward the end of the last set, he grabbed the microphone and began to respectfully but firmly tell folks to back away from their cellphones.

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“Folks, you’re on an amazing cruise ship, and these musicians work hard every night to perform for you. All during this cruise and many others, I see people night after night texting and doing whatever on their cellphones. You’re in the middle of a beautiful ocean. What could be so important that you can’t disconnect even for a few days, a few hours, even?”

A few folks looked up when he was talking, but when the music began again, they went back to doing what they were doing.

All of us, if we’re honest, at one time or another are guilty of spending more time then we need with technology. It has become an obsession — for some people even an addiction, and the research shows those in the Church are just as guilty. We are connected to technology when we should be connected more to God and to each other. I felt sorry for that night club host, but I was grateful for the reminder that this is no way to spend our vacations, nor our day-to-day lives. Life is short, and so is summertime. So instead of making another phone call, how about making a splash in your backyard pool or local lake instead?

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXM Channel 130.