Dissonance on a hot afternoon

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014

They just had to tune the TV to the cable news blower. They just HAD to. And I have at least two hours for these mechanics to stop the horrible rattling in that clunker of mine. Mickey Rourke had it right enough in “Sin City” — modern-day cars do look like electric shavers. But the shavers last longer.

I’m lounging in the waiting area next to two young, black females and an equally young white couple as the talking heads paint the picture — another American beheaded in Iraq, racial strife in the heartland over a cop and a kid. I don’t want to be sitting here. Ah, a video game. That’s what I’ll do. Mobile technology comes in handy after all.

I’m taking out little stones left and right in something called Sphlinx. It’s a benign enough diversion as I wait for the inevitable snickers and awkward glances from my sofa mates. The heads on the TV are bobbing about the latest noggin claimed by this latest bunch of Middle East crazies. ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State…as Eli Wallach said in the third installment of the Dollars Trilogy, “it’s all the same to me, my friend.” When I feel unloved and left out, I listen to depressing music. I don’t defect to the desert and cut folks’ heads off.

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I was in high school in a time when a man named Duke wanted to turn my home state into a blow-dried version of the Third Reich. “Vote for the crook — it’s important” was a phrase I remember. The crook won, thank goodness. Point is, my heart gets jumpy when I’m around people who can’t see through the lips on the talking heads. Footage rolls of counter-protests in support of the white cop in Ferguson, Mo. who shot the black teenager as I catch a quick glance of the kids’ blissful ignorance of what’s going on. I hope the silence continues. Neophytes, all of them.

Kids on their phones, too. Talking, texting…it’s all the same to me. Distraction takes many forms in the virtual world created by your phone. Then I heard what they said. My nerves actually calmed once I gathered what was important to them.

“Girl, you gon’ bring dat 1800, right? We gon’ git turned up tonight!” I’ve gathered that “turned up” in these kids’ world simply means consuming copious amounts of alcohol and posting evidence of it online. The couple whispers something about their car, their next tattoo, some picture of a cat online, something less important than the world coming apart on the television screen.

I reach level 7 on my mobile diversion when I hear my car’s ready. New wheel bearing. Couple hundred bucks. It’s ok. I’d rather not have the wheel fall off on the way to my vacation spot. Car notes? Don’t need them right now. I’m relieved I wasn’t pulled into a debate about patriotism or race by total strangers.

But I’m a thinker. When the thoughts get too deep, I realize I’m poorer for not knowing what these children, these two-legged satellites of their handheld devices think about the worst of human depravity. My score on Sphlinx is something of a reminder. I had the phone in my hand, too.

Maybe I wasn’t the only one trying to escape.

Danny Barrett is a reporter and can be reached by email at danny.barrett@vicksburgpost.com or by phone at 601-636-4545.