Text your friends: Tom thinks something's wrong with youngsters today

I was running a basketball tournament recently, and I hired a young woman who is a member of the Pima Community College team to operate the scoreboard for me.

It's odd but true that the refs can make one or two (or 50) bad calls, and the players and crowd will do a little low-level grumbling. But if the score is wrong, or the clock isn't being stopped and/or started at the right times, they go nuts. I pointed this out to the young lady before we got started.

Early in the second game of the day, I looked over at the scorer's table and noticed that she was texting. I called her name and gave her the what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-you? shrug; she put the phone down. A few minutes later, she was doing it again. At halftime, I told her that she would have to stop doing that. She said, "I'm just texting."

To which I replied, "You're supposed to be working."

She then told me that she texts all the time at her other job, as though that made it OK. This continued the rest of the day, and it was driving me nuts. I really like the kid, but it got to the point where I was just going to get somebody out of the stands to run the scoreboard, and tell her to leave. I told her that the games, from start to finish, only ran about 45 minutes, total, so, along with the halftime break, she had 10-15 minutes each hour to get in all of her "I dont no. Wut r u doin?" action.

Right before the last game of the day, I told her that I'd either pay her the $8.50 per hour that I had promised, or I would have her start with $15, and I'd take back one dollar each time I saw her texting. She thought about it for just a few seconds and said she'd take the $8.50.

That kind of behavior might be average, but it's certainly not normal. You would think that a struggling college student would be willing to put her phone in the car or have someone else hold it for an hour in exchange for almost twice the money. She then asked if she could "work" the following week. (I have a soft spot for nervy people.)

I asked her if she would have her cell phone with her, and told her that my answer to her question would be the opposite of her answer to my question.

What's extra odd is that I'd had trouble getting hold of her in the first place. I had called her several times and left voicemails. She explained that she never answers the phone anymore. Neither does she check her voicemails. She uses the phone almost exclusively for texting.

Samuel Morse would love that. After his telegraph was trumped by Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, people are now back to using one of the great inventions of all time as a glorified telegraph.

(The only reason she finally got my message is that she sometimes checks her e-mail ... on her phone.)

A couple of days later, I was heading east on River Road, approaching La Cholla Boulevard. The light was red, so I began slowing down. Ahead of me was a car that was decelerating, but drifting across the lane lines as it did so. The driver was a young guy, late teens/early 20s, who had both hands on his cell phone, and no eyes on the road. I honked the horn, and he jerked to a stop, straddling the lane line.

I pulled up next to him and was almost in the right-turn lane. He rolled down his window and asked why I had honked at him. I explained that he had been drifting and was now taking up part of two lanes. Without looking up from the phone, he said, "No, I'm not."

Incredulous, I said, "Let's bet. I'll bet my car against that piece of crap you've got in your hands."

He finally looked up, saw where he was, and said, "Ain't nobody wants that car."

"Yeah," I said, "At least I'm not my phone's bitch."

It got sorta serious then. He said (like a bitch), "You wouldn't be talking to me like that if I had my gun."

"Dude, text your mom, and ask her to bring you your gun. I'll wait for you at Bashas'. But if the sheriff gets there before your mom does, The Sisters are going to do you like they did Andy Dufresne." (The Shawshank Redemption references are always cool.)

He stared at me for a second; the light turned green, and he sped off like ... well, a bitch.

I know there's something missing in my head that should send off alarms, but life's too short to play scared. Besides, I felt like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, except I was just messing with the white wannabe and not the three black guys.

These two things showed me to what extremes cell phones have taken over young people's lives. I can't completely blame them for not having manners or work habits or safety concerns—the older generations have let them down in these areas, and somebody needs to pay for that.

More next week.

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