I was driving back from the Hamptons on Sunday night with my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, and our three kids, Jessie, JT and our puppy Shlomo (my youngest and hairiest child, who many believe is my favorite).
I was driving and Jessie and JT were talking.
"How many are you following?" Jessie asked.
"567," JT replied. He then added, "I am following 567 people and I have 362 following me."
"Did you see this from Harry? He's in Los Angeles. That's Venice Beach.""Look at this one from Jamie."
"I saw that. Did you see this one from Jimmy Simpson?"
"Look at this room . . . Look at this appetizer . . . What a beautiful sunset."
Then Jessie said,"I'm on Instagram 20 . . . 30 . . . 40 times a day."
Jessie and JT were talking about the new cell phone rage called Instagram, where millions of young people share pictures. Not great pictures, not award-winning pictures, not pictures that are memorable, but pictures of their everyday lives and a minute-to-minute record of what they ate, where they went and what they did.
I'm talking about snapshots that my generation tried to avoid whenever someone thought we would love to see their vacation pictures.
These are just pictures taken with an iPhone. Words don't count any more. This is a generation that only wants to look at pictures.
What are the pictures of?
Everything they do in their every waking moment.
To begin with, no one under the age of 30 sits down to a meal without pulling out their iPhone and taking a picture of the appetizer, the salad, the entrée and the dessert and sending it out for friends and strangers to see.
So food gets cold and it's sent back. Pasta gets gummy because before food is eaten it must be photographed and 3 or 400 or 5,000 people will see it on their iPhones before the first bite is taken.
As you're reading this, thousand of pictures of that new designer vegetable kale (which everyone says they love but no one really likes) are being taken. Chopped kale, steamed kale, fried kale, dried kale, minced kale, kale chips, kale burgers, kale a la mode, kale ice cream, etc. etc.
Then there are the dog pictures. No dog can close its eyes for a nap without it being recorded for posterity by some idiot.
So while you're reading this, at least a million pictures of sleeping dogs are traveling to and from iPhones so millions of young people can say, "Oooooohhhhhh! Howwwwww cute!"
I was appalled that my daughter, age 28, and my son, age 25 – both very intelligent and genuinely nice people – were babbling about how much of their lives is devoted to looking at inane pictures on their iPhones.
After listening to them rave for three or four exits on the Long Island Expressway about the important role Instagram has in their lives, I decided to genetically trace how my children have turned out this way. So I called out to Judy, who was sitting in the back seat with Shlomo in her lap.
"Judy, think back – were there any imbeciles in your family?"
Everyone in the car giggled.
"No Jerry," she answered. "My family was only crazy; your family might have had some morons."
I'm an open person, so I drove the next few miles tracing my family history, looking for morons.
Then I found one. My grandmother on my mother's side had a cousin named Sal who for some unfathomable reason was called "Sally White." Once, Sally White, who was a bit of a dufus, had a memorable adventure that was repeated with great glee around the dinner table every Christmas Eve.
It seems Sally White had three live chickens in a paper bag. He was supposed to bring them home for his family's Christmas Day meal. The bag broke and the chickens got away from him on the Sea Beach (now the N) subway train.
As the story goes, all the other passengers on the train scattered, and Sally White caught two of the chickens, but one of them flew off on the Kings Highway station stop and was never heard from again.
Could some of Sally White's cloudy genes have drifted into my DNA, mixed with Judy's DNA from her grandmother Jenny Licht's "crazy" gene, and this was what was now causing my children, who are normal and wonderful in every other way, to stare for 16 hours a day at pictures of kale and sleeping dogs on Instagram?
Instagram is just one of the reasons iPhones and other cell phones scare me.
They have taken over our lives.
Walk into an elevator and every person is staring at their iPhone like a zombie.
It's like the Night of the Living Dead.
And yes, I'm as bad as the next person.
What am I looking for?
Can I go even the two minutes an elevator ride takes without checking lurid, email come-ons from young Russian women who can't wait to get their hands on my ancient, fat body?
Must I really immediately read the message from those nice folks at the Christian Singles website who are determined to find "the right Christian for you"?
Walk on any street in the Hamptons or in the middle of Manhattan – everyone is carrying a phone in their hands. Mothers would rather hold their cell phone than hold the tiny hand of their three-year-old child while crossing a street.
Then there are the idiots who cross the street against the light with a cell phone on their ear. They would rather die than not immediately hear some inane message.
There is a great last line in former major league pitcher Jim Bouton's book Ball Four:
"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. The ball is gripping you."
Can we not apply that to our cell phones?
We all think we own our cell phones, but in the end, our cell phones own us.
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