I am sitting in the waiting room of the Subaru dealer nearest to my home, 45 minutes away in Albany, New Hampshire. The dealership is undergoing major renovations and so the seven of us waiting for our cars to be serviced are shunted to a stuffy, small and ugly room with decrepit chairs. The only sound is a wall-mounted flat-screen TV that is blaring a news-entertainment show.
The six other people range in age from 35 to 85. None of them are looking at the TV. The oldest of the bunch is reading a book on her Kindle; the youngest is checking her email on her smart phone; one is reading a newspaper; one is doing a Sudoku puzzle; two are reading books. The brash noise from the TV is disconcerting, interrupting my concentration (I’m in the middle of a great, poignant book about a woman who is pregnant with a child who will be born with Downs syndrome); I’m getting annoyed. Finally, I cannot take it anymore.
“Excuse me,” I say, and six faces look up at me. “Would anyone mind if I lower the volume on the TV?”
They actually seem relieved. “You can turn off the sound altogether, as far as I’m concerned,” says one of the faces.
“Why not just turn off the TV?” another says, and the others nod in agreement, so I do.
Immediately there is utter silence in the room, a silence so profound in contrast to the previously-blaring TV that someone remarks upon it.
This initiates conversation. Suddenly people put down their books, Kindle, newspapers, puzzles and smartphone. They start talking, and interacting. A sort of jovial, temporary intimacy forms. Despite the wide range of ages, the different genders, people have much in common. These formerly disconnected people are downright chatty.
The TV remains off. It was a people-stealer. Had people watched, they would have been sensually removed from the person next to them. As it turned out, the show that was playing was so loud that it accomplished the same thing: people tuned it out by immersing themselves in their reading material; conversation was impossible.
How many of us get immersed and distracted by media? To the point of disregarding, ignoring and disassociating from interpersonal relationships? (Yes, that’s me, pointing a finger at myself.)
What Divine Providence that I ended up at the car dealer a week before Rosh HaShana.
G-d was reminding me that I need to tune in.