Ed Grisamore

Gris’ advice to grads: Look up

Excuse me.

Yes, you on the third row. Second mortarboard from the end, your tassel wagging like a puppy’s tail.

It’s your graduation day.

Anybody home? I’m over here.

For a moment, I thought you were praying. Your head was bowed. Or maybe your shoe was untied. Perhaps a bug was crawling across the stage and deserved your attention.

Then I realized the glow on your face was the reflection from a tiny backlit screen. Your thumbs were fast and furious.

When the commencement speaker came to the part about holding the future in the palm of your hand, she wasn’t talking about your cellphone.

I have some advice for the Class of 2015.

Look up.

Like many young people today, you are connected to the world and disconnected to almost everything in your path. You are not in the moment. You are somewhere else with somebody else.

You are texting or tweeting, Facebooking or Instagramming. Those are words that did not exist the night I got my diploma. They are the new definition of AWOL. Absent Without Leaving.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to look people in the eye. It’s like always having a five-bar signal on your screen. You can’t lock down someone’s eyes if your head is in your hand.

For the past few years, my office has been located on a college campus. I have watched students pace the sidewalks in front of my window, eyes tethered to their me, myself and iPhones.

Some are oblivious to their surroundings. They step off curbs. They walk into parked cars, light poles and each other. They are mobile accidents waiting to happen.

Someone said there is an app for your phone to help see what is in front of you.

“What’s wrong watching where you’re going?” I asked.

Last year, I was stopped at a light on Napier Avenue on my way home from work. A young woman, distracted by her cell phone, crashed into my car from behind. There were no skid marks. As the officer was writing up the accident report, she was busy texting again.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love technology. I embrace it. Although I will probably never own an Apple watch or a pair of Google glasses, I am totally cool living in a streaming world with hashtags and storage clouds. (I do, however, prefer real-time smiles to emoticons on the back end of text messages.)

The subject of this epidemic of detachment was discussed over a plate of scrambled eggs Thursday morning. A lady at my table offered a glimmer of hope.

She had read that some young people are now recognizing their own passivity. They are starting to “unplug” when they’re together.

When they gather for a meal, they put their cellphones face down in the middle of the table. The first person to reach for their phone has to pick up the tab for the others.

The world has always been wireless, just in a different way.

Your life is in front of you.

Please make sure you’re watching.

Contact Gris at 744-4275. After May 15, his new email will be edgrisamore@gmail.com.