Talking the walk

I saw a new thing today.

You’ve probably noticed, when you drive through the USC campus, that about 50 percent of the kids walking from class to class have mobile phones glued to their ears.

Well, today I saw a girl running — as in, jogging, not hurrying — through the walking, talking crowd, holding her phone to her ear. I’m not talking headset or one of those fancy Bluetooth dealies that are now all the rage, but holding the actual handset to her head with her right arm while her left pumped dutifully back and forth to the rhythm of her pace.

I don’t get it. And I’m not just talking about the fact that at my age, if I ran in such an awkward, asymmetrical position I’d get a crick in my neck that would last for weeks.

When I was their age, I enjoyed solitude. OK, let’s face it; I was a little antisocial, even Raskolnikov-like. But not to a seriously abnormal degree (I don’t think).

I just appreciated peace and quiet, whenever I could get some. And I cherished being incommunicado most of the time. That is, I would have cherished it if I could have imagined that I would live in a future in which such a state was unattainable.

I actually enjoyed thinking. How do you ever get to experience that, much less find out whether you like it or not, if you’re always chattering?

6 thoughts on “Talking the walk

  1. Herb

    Mike, I haven’t gotten too far with the pre-K and after school programs, but I have talked with a) one teacher in an inter-city school in Columbia, who has been running after school programs and remedial reading for the last few years. He says that the best way to reach the kids is through sport programs. He also underlined two facts with which we are all familiar, and those are 1) that the gangs are growing because they provide a sense of belonging to a family, and 2) Islam is providing a place (with family values) for single moms to send their kids after school hours (I’ve seen that happening at the two mosques I visit from time to time). Other than that, he is very keen to keep contact and to help us if he can. I’ve known him for a few years, and he is a great teacher. When he started his after-school program, all the other teachers said that no one would show up, but nearly 200 kids came.
    A key man I need to visit with is in India at the moment. But apart from that, I’ve heard that Brookland Baptist Church has been involved with partnering in rural areas of this state, and that there is a state senator or two who would be a good contact. I’ll be out at a rural church on Sunday, and try to find out more.
    As you notice, I’m hesitant to mention very many specifics at this point, lest it all come to nothing. But I do circulate among pastors some, and I’m trying to find out who is interested.
    Does anyone know where is the best place to go to present a proposal for funding a rural church program that is already providing after-school help to kids? Is that a dept of education deal, or are faith-based initiatives somebody else’s department? I’m assuming that places like Walmart might be willing to provide equipment and maybe computers?

  2. Mike C

    Ha! Ya gotta watch them literary allusions, Brad, because this is one of the first definitions that pops up for Raskolnikov:

    – a fictional character in Dostoevsky’s novel `Crime and Punishment’; he kills old women because he believes he is beyond the bounds of good or evil.

    Not a good analogy when one’s writing for a crowd that’s web-savvy but of unknown literary exposure, especially when some of your commenters have questioned your motives or expressed some hostility.
    “Yes, he admitted that he can even kill old ladies if he wants to because he’s above us all.”
    Actually, that’s kinder than what some have written on your blog.
    Those who’ve read Crime And Punishment understand that you were alluding to Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s description of the poor guy’s state at the time the novel opens:

    He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so.

    Time alone is a precious commodity. Time spent in reflection, lost in thought, is hard to find. It seems that there’s always something to do and no time to enjoy, let alone notice, even the simple things in life.
    As for running / jogging, I had to give it up years ago. It made my beer foam… And I got a crick in the neck while running and tilting my head back for each sip.

  3. Mike C

    Herb –
    Sorry, I didn’t see your post while I was writing my comment to Brad.
    Computers are a good idea – the hardware is cheap enough now, but it’s the applications software that runs up the bill. The kids need MS Word at a minimum.
    I did set up some old computers for one of the park centers some time ago and have helped with cabling and troubleshooting at my wife’s school. I set up some older (PII, 500MHz with Win 98) computers for some immigrant families and spent last weekend adding modems and free (Grisoft AVG) anti-virus software, but there’s a really big problem – the computers have to be locked down because the kids visit the durnedest places. Even at 56K they get into a lot of trouble; browser hijackers, spyware, and adware are all over, and some of that stuff is tough to remove. It’s a little harder to make Win98 computers safe, but using free products (Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware) and installing a good Hosts file is a good start. (Actually, I’d only allow internet access on a third of the computers and try to get good instructional CDs for the rest.)
    Richland District One has had a heckuva time getting their PC support operation in order. Each school could use a couple of techs just to solve the problems that crop up daily. I hate going to fix PCs in my wife’s classroom because other teachers come by and I end up spending hours fixing this and fixing that. Usually it’s simple stuff – somebody changed the printer definition or unlocked the tool bars and moved them all around – but it sometimes becomes really annoying when folks can’t remember passwords since I don’t have administrator privileges.
    That said, there is funding available for internet access and instructional materials through the e-rate program and the FCC-run Universal Service Administrative Company . In many cases, non-traditional facilities and students may be eligible. Here’s a description of one of the programs. Some of the steps might sound daunting — prepare a technology plan — but with an example or two I could crank out a template or a full plan with a pot of coffee and a six-pack.
    Microsoft does have low-cost support for schools and such, but I can’t find it now. I think one has to contact a Microsoft rep and prove one’s bona fides.
    In one sense, the technology is easy. The hard part is the personal commitment for the direct and indirect support. Some companies can and will encourage their folks to help out, but if the help is needed too far away, then it gets burdensome.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Well, Raskolnikov’s problem was that he had too MUCH solitude, and had thought his way into a very bad place. At some point, one needs people to bounce one’s ideas off of, to keep from going out of sane bounds. When did Rodya come to himself and realize the enormity of what he’d done, realizing it so powerfully that he passed out? When confronted by his mother and sister, from whom he had long been isolated.
    Just think — a good national plan featuring unlimited free mobile-to-mobile, and he could have stayed in touch with Dunya and dear old Mom, and he wouldn’t have had the chance to talk himself into inhumanity.
    No crime. No punishment. But then, no redemption. In fact, no Dostoevsky. Just Rodya and Razumikhin exchanging text messages and risque pictures of Sonya. In other words, instead of one of the great novels of all time, you have “reality” TV.
    And there’s the rub. We’re better off with Raskolnikov alone in his garret, feverishly obsessing about the bloody frayed ends of his trousers.

  5. Herb

    Thanks, Mike. I’ve heard back from a few pastors already, and have some more leads. The best thing, I guess, is to get ahold of those who are heading up associations of various kinds. It looks promising, though I would never want to count my chickens before they hatch.

  6. Mark Whittington


    Young people are still thinking about things despite appearances. In my callow days, the notion of doubt came to preoccupy my thoughts. I was disappointed to learn that Descartes had somehow stolen my ideas! Cogito, ergo sum later became Credo ut intelligam. Perhaps you invented Existentialism. I suppose Mike was Ayn Rand’s (or perhaps Nietzsche’s) tutor. We’ve been around the block a time or two, so nothing seems new to us, and we tend to marginalize the efforts of the uninitiated.

Comments are closed.