There are two coffee shops and a Subway that I have to choose between when I go on my Bilbo Baggins adventures out into the city hinterlands beyond the banks of my moat. No matter which of these places I might randomly choose to patronize, I always find myself having to listen to a half dozen or more deep and personal conversations that have no place in the public discourse. And every time I’m subjected to stories of sexual escapades, bawdy conquests, medical procedures, as-yet unhealed surgical wounds, etc., I am gobsmacked by the general lack of self-awareness or common decency that people have anymore.

What they tell you about some of your senses taking over in response to the damage or loss of others is 100% true. In my own case, there are a couple of very weird and – in some ways unfortunate – changes in my hearing that began to take shape not too long after I started my visual rehab and recovery. In particular, I began to hear all of the voices around me very clearly and could discern – by unique frequencies, I suppose – who was saying what to whom in a roughly 20-foot-wide circle all around me.

I can’t “see” which person said what, mind you, or even necessarily which table it originates from, but I can hear it as if they were talking to me directly.

Sounds cool, right? Some sort of fucked up “spidey” sense, right? Let me assure you… it might sound really cool on paper, but it gets really old incredibly fast. And it’s not so bad when there’s only a couple of people having conversations, but the damnable part of it is what happens in larger crowds like filled dining establishments, bars, and, most maddening of all, airport terminals; with all of those frequencies bouncing around in tight quarters, the sensory input overload sometimes makes my brain feel like it’s going to pop.

And so it was that I found myself walking into the coffee shop the other morning to grab my favorite almost-healthy breakfast: Angus beef/bacon/egg/cheese sandwich on an everything bagel…toasted with butter, hash browns / tater tots, and a small hot black hazelnut coffee with a double chocolate donut for dessert.

I know what you’re thinking; “That sounds like a damn fine breakfast!” And it was or might have been, had it not been ruined a couple of minutes later when my chosen spot to sit and eat in peace had been quickly overtaken by a small group of 20-something young ladies to my left, one of which quickly got busy bragging to her two friends about how she had tricked a guy into having sex with her the night before, in gory detail. Honestly, it made the first few bites really difficult to choke down. Call me a prude or even old-fashioned, but porn chatter with breakfast doesn’t strike me as a terribly good combination.

About the time I almost had those three tuned out, the senior ladies to my right started cackling about their healthcare. The first one was complaining about how much trouble she was having with her bunions lately and how disappointed she was with her quack podiatrist not doing enough about it. Not to be outdone, her partner-in-lamentations started in about how hard it had been to keep her oozing diabetes-related sores from getting infected and that she was quite sure her visiting nurse was a complete idiot that shouldn’t be allowed to provide medical care to her cat let alone her poor defenseless legs. Seriously?

Frantically trying to scrub the visual images from my brain with a steel brush, I tried to find my happy place…rocking in silence to a Sting song coming over the piped-in commercial-free local FM radio station… and almost had this sensory overload beaten until a couple of grizzly-looking, visibly hungover 30-somethings, walked in.. scoped out the 20-somethings.. and started hitting on them – hard – as if Armageddon was a little over 12 minutes away and they were running out of time to get busy with the business of planting the seeds of the generations that would replace them.

Dear God in heaven, what has become of your greatest creation? FML

My appetite was quickly waning, and it occurred to me that perhaps some of this cultural erosion of self-awareness, common decency, and fundamental self-respect could somehow be blamed on the invention of the cell phone. I mean.. think about it.. back in the “good old days” of rotary and push-button phones, these sorts of conversations more commonly took place in the privacy of your own home and were rarely overheard by random strangers on the streets. In order to know about a person’s sex life, their oozing legs.. Or even about their mangled and disfigured toes… you actually had to know the person and have an intimate enough relationship with them to be privy to such private and personal information.

Laugh at me all you want, call me a “boomer,” and write me off as an “Old Man” whose life has passed him by, but I will make no apologies for hating the fact that I’ve lived long enough to watch these younger generations willfully destroy so much of the good we have passed on to them for which they ignorantly have no respect or appreciation. And tempting though it might be to blame “technology,” you can’t hold an inanimate object accountable for the stupid human tricks that result from its misuse; when all is said and done, we are only as smart as how we were raised or what we were willing to learn or… As Forrest Gump once said… “Stupid is as Stupid does, Miss Blue.”

No… this crisis of human decency isn’t about gadgets or baubles or gizmos. This is about generations of bad parenting, generations of shitty education, and shitty schools. And it’s also about generations of people not giving a fuck anymore about anything or anybody but themselves. You know, the more I think about this, the more I wonder if maybe those half-cocked hungover, 30-somethings were on the right track about being in a hurry to plant the seeds of a new generation now before this generation moronically stumbles across some new technology that ultimately and unwittingly wipes out the entire species.


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