CSotD: The Dangling Conversation

I woke up this morning and discovered that the new horror on social media was that, while small-business owners were describing their experiences during the lockdown, Dear Leader was goofing on his phone and paying no attention.

Which you can see here but is it really that much of a shock?

Granted we didn’t have smartphones back then, but I think this is pretty much the view his professors had of him in college: Back of the room, ignoring the class, lost in a dim world of his own.

Pardon me if I wasn’t shocked.

I didn’t expect him to be offering Clinton hugs and Obama solutions or even W’s sympathetic nods.


And there is a question of who gets to cast the first stone, as Joy of Tech notes a certain lack of interaction amongst hip young people as well.

This is where I should shift into Old Man status and declare that, if I had kids today, they wouldn’t be allowed to have their phones at the dinner table.

They need to learn how to have an uninterrupted conversation where people politely pay attention to each other, dammit.

Then again, when I had kids at home 30 years ago, we were already freaks for even having dinner together, much less for any rules that went with it.

… and we mark our place with bookmarkers, to measure what we’ve lost …


Alex makes the point that, for a people who live in a detached, electronic world, we’re not all that adept at it.

Mind you, if I had to go into the intense lockdown I’ve seen from urban friends, I’d have consolidated housing with any significant other I had and probably with an insignificant other if that’s who was available.

There’s a lot of future rom-com plots to be had in that at worst and a bit of Erica Jong fantasy at best.

OTOH, I’m strictly Old School when it comes to workplace rules about nepotism and romance. I’ve worked in office settings where love was in the air, and it was too often incompatible with work being in the air.

In one of them, going over your boss’s head meant complaining to her husband, or, stepping up one more and going to her husband’s best friend. Meanwhile, same place, we had a department head who was in the untenable position of managing his boss’s spouse.

There are office romances that work out, certainly.

But they’re like those videos of kittens making it across a busy, six-lane highway.

Heart-warming, but hardly recommended.


Meanwhile, as Rick Stromoski points out, opening up the offices again is going to require a little deprogramming.


And when it comes to romance, office or otherwise, I’m simply an observer these days, though I have occasional flare-ups along Mike Baldwin‘s lines.

I’m a little jealous of those who’ve managed to keep something going all these years, but at this stage I’ve gotten used to scratching where it itches and most of the single women I know are equally content with autonomy.

My fantasy is to find a smart, attractive, compatible woman and buy a duplex. She stays in her side, I stay in mine, we sit on the porch and watch our dogs play and every once in a long while, we watch a movie together.

Mostly, she reads her Emily Dickinson and I my Robert Frost in a now-late afternoon.


Anne Morse Hambrock, of “Anne and God: Conversations with the Infinite,” offers another consolation of growing more mature, which is allied to the expression, “To know all is to forgive all.”

It’s slightly inapplicable in my case because my first-grade teacher was crazy and cruel, and it didn’t make me feel better about it to find, decades later, that the adults all knew it.

But several of my other elementary teachers simply had, as Anne suggests, a lot on their plates. It was an era when a “widow woman” had few career choices, mostly housekeeping, nursing or teaching.

I had some brilliant educators and some slightly inept babysitters, but the consolation is only partially that I’m older and more understanding.

The real consolation is knowing things have changed and that, while a lot of teachers don’t get past their third or fourth year before burning out, the ones who stick with it today are generally pretty good.


Especially if they have a kid in their class like Wallace the Brave, who brings them jars of fresh sea air to revitalize their energy.

The great thing about this being that Wallace is under plenty of stress himself and is offering a fellow-sufferer what help he can.


Don’t know much about history

Today is Juneteenth, but the closest I can come to a cartoon about it is Michael de Adder‘s suggestion that tearing down Confederate statues means an end to the war.

Well, someday, maybe, but we’re not there yet.


Meanwhile, Dear Leader not only takes credit for the sunrise each morning but is now taking credit for establishing Juneteenth as a day of celebration.

A smart politician would pretend he’d known about it all along, but Trump goes the other direction, insisting that, since he didn’t know about it, nobody did.

Among his friends, it’s likely true.

And if you’d never heard of it until now, perhaps you should examine the circles in which you travel.

But for the rest of us, here’s a bit of a reality anchor: It’s often pointed out that June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom, was two-and-a-half years after they’d been emancipated.

On accounta no television or something like that.

However, there were telegraphs, so let’s look at some dates here:

January 1, 1863 — Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect, freeing slaves in secessionist states, a proclamation only enforceable by victorious armies.

April 9, 1865 — Lee surrenders at Appomattox.

May 12-13, 1865 — Battle of Palmito Ranch, Texas. Last battle of the war, and a Confederate victory.

June 19, 1865 — Doesn’t seem so long delayed after all, does it?

We should talk to each other more often, and also listen.


4 thoughts on “CSotD: The Dangling Conversation

  1. Mike,

    Thanks for the mention! I’m afraid my first grade teacher was also fairly cruel (I don’t know about crazy).

    She was probably in her late 60s, never married, and was one of those teachers who believed in shame as a punishment for any classroom transgressions. I spent many a morning “sitting in the corner” – usually for talking too much (big surprise). There was no dunce cap but if she could have gotten away with it I’m sure I would have been wearing that too.

    I remember she walked with a cane but only recently heard from someone that she had contracted polio as a child. That information shifted the kaleidoscope a little and I began to wonder what other challenges she may have faced and about all the forces that shaped her into the form encountered by 6 year old me.

    I’d like to hope that my impression of her was exaggerated by my own childish prejudices. Regardless, I must remember that forgiveness is always the right path.

  2. Oh boy! I get to use my PUNCH cartoon again. This is from 1906:


    114 years old, and there’s those darn Young People Of Today ™, out on a date, and all they do is stare at their gol-dang electronic doohickeys!

    I scanned this nice and big, and it got a lot of hits, and one day I got the nicest message from the folks at Punch, informing me that the cartoonist had been around until 1960, and that they still made a bit of money licensing the drawing from time to time, and mentioning that it was fine for me to have it up there, but they’d be obliged to me if I would reduce it in size so that it was still viewable, but less printable. I only wish every copyright holder was so pleasant and easy to work with. I made the change they requested at once, and was happy to do it.

  3. I believe it was Bette Davis who said that men and women should live next door to each other and just visit. Now in my dotage, I agree.
    My elementary school teachers taught forever, but then again, they were nuns, and it was pre-Vatican II. Yes, I am old.

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