– What I discovered on my flight from Asheville.

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I recently took a short trip to North Carolina to do a little fly-fishing with an old friend. It was a brief trip and we only had modest success, but it was a wonderful getaway. The mountains were beautiful, the air smelled delicious, and the streams were cold and clear. It was just the tonic I needed.

I came home on a Sunday morning via the Asheville airport. After checking in I proceeded to go through TSA security. It was still relatively early and there weren’t too many people in line. I think I caught the TSA agent off-guard by saying, “Good Morning,” to her. I observed what a nice day it was, and she responded by asking me how my trip had been. I explained I went fishing and had a great time in the mountains. She then asked me about my fishing pole, which I was carrying, and we chatted a few scant minutes about rainbow trout. She seemed to be pleased that someone had taken the time to talk to her. Maybe it’s because people generally do not think of TSA agents as human beings. I suppose they do not put on their pants one leg at a time.

After clearing security, I approached my gate where I found it eerily quiet. As I looked around, the passengers awaiting the flight were all busy either on their smart phones or Kindles. Some were playing games, others were listening to music, reading, or texting. All I saw were people gently tapping or swiping their fingers over the screen. In the corner of the room was a television set featuring a Sunday morning political talk show. The volume was turned down low, but I could hear it clear as a bell from the other side of the room. After all, tapping and swiping doesn’t exactly make a lot of racket.

Interestingly, I saw a boy and a girl sitting next to each other in the waiting area, both were teenagers who didn’t appear to know each other. Both were attractive, but neither acknowledged the presence of the other. From what I saw, they didn’t even exchange glances, they just played with their smart phones instead. What a pity.

When we finally boarded the aircraft, I sat next to a lady just a few years older than myself and an Asheville native. Everyone else continued with their tapping and swiping. As I sat down, I introduced myself to the woman, and we struck up a conversation which ranged over several subjects. She gave me some background information on Asheville, how she had recently attended a High School reunion, what books she was reading, and we even talked a little about moonshine up in the mountains. I described my fishing trip, life in Tampa Bay, the books I was reading, and a few other things.

It was a short flight, but my co-passenger made it interesting and lively. It started when she noticed I was carrying a regular hard covered book, as was she, as opposed to an electronic reader. Although we spoke quietly to maintain our privacy, every now and then another passenger would stop tapping and swiping only to give us a dirty look as if we were loud and boisterous and disturbing the harmony of the flight. At this time I noticed none of the other passengers were talking as they were all transfixed on their electronic devices.

In a way, my conversation with my co-passenger reminded me of air travel of yesteryear where passengers socialized and made new contacts. However, it occurred to me that we were now the oddballs, we were now the ones not using the latest technology, and we were the ones who had to communicate face-to-face. Frankly, we had a great time and became good friends.

The Asheville flight went to Atlanta where I made a connecting flight to Tampa. On this leg, I sat next to a gentleman I judged to be in his 40’s. Although I said hello and tried to introduce myself, the man pulled out his Kindle and immersed himself in reading. I pulled out my clunky book and began reading a few pages. After awhile, I looked up to see a woman across the aisle working on a jigsaw puzzle on her tablet computer, two other gentlemen were playing games on their smart phones, and another listened to music on his headphones. Nobody talked and you could hear a pin drop in the cabin.

After the flight, everyone rushed to the luggage carrousel in a spirit of competition, not cooperation or courtesy. Frankly, it was rather ugly. It then occurred to me technology was one of the reasons I no longer enjoy flying, and I suspect others might feel likewise. Bottom-line, it re-enforced my Bryce’s Law, “As the use of technology increases, social skills decreases.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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