Hey, Buddy, Look Up

A while back, I was walking to work and heard someone yell, “Hey, buddy! Look up!”

My first reaction was to ignore it and continue on my way. People yell out non sequiturs at each other in the city all the time. I thought maybe he was telling me to turn toward God. Wouldn’t be the first time a stranger expressed concern for my soul. Then I heard brakes squeal behind me,  a long car horn, and more shouting. I turned to see a woman—mid-40s and wearing scrubs— clutching her steering wheel in a stopped car.

“Do you have a death wish?” She yelled at a man standing at the curb holding a cell phone. Another woman sat between them in the car’s passenger seat. Apparently the man hadn’t noticed he had walked into traffic because he was occupied with his phone. Aside from the passenger plugging her ears, nobody looked hurt. “How about you keep that phone in your pocket when you’re walking around town because it’s apparent to me that you can’t stare at that thing and avoid getting killed at the same time.” [Writer’s note: I’ve deleted many, many swear words.]

“Sorry,” he muttered and looked back down. I could tell he was embarrassed and trying to avoid looking at the driver, but the fact that he went right back to doing the offending act just ticked her off more.

“I’m so tired of you people making the rest of us responsible for your safety because you can’t be bothered to watch where you’re going. You’re like a 4-year-old walking down the street expecting other people to make sure you don’t get hurt. Should we put some Huggies on you too so you don’t have to stop watching that thing to go to the bathroom?” That’s as far as she got before the car behind her honked. The light turned green. She continued haranguing him as she swerved away from the curb and down the street.

What she said to him made me happy. It put a picture in my mind of grown men and women walking around town with their eyes stuck to their cell phones wearing extra-puffy-at-the-top slacks and being followed by people yelling out instructions you’d usually only hear a parent tell a toddler. Tie your shoelaces before you trip. Don’t run into that lightpost. Stop at this crosswalk and wait for me to hold your hand.

I used to get really mad at people who walked around town with their faces in their phones. But I’ve since adopted saying “Hey, buddy! Look up!” whenever I encounter it. Mostly I say it to people who take a few steps out of the subway station, stop in the middle of the sidewalk, and start tapping away on their iPhones. This habit annoys me because I’m walking past the station—not into it—and they are obliviously standing right in my way. After I tell them to look up, they mumble their sorry and step into an even more annoying spot. That’s when I hear the voice of that angry woman in my head and surprisingly, I soften.

At the risk of sounding like a self righteous jerk, I admit that I soften because I picture them as toddlers. It’s an inside joke with positive effects: I don’t yell and they are politely informed that they are not paying attention. I say, “Be careful with that thing, huh?” as tenderly as I can. The concern in my voice makes them detach from the screen for a moment to look at me. I smile and continue on my way.

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20 thoughts on “Hey, Buddy, Look Up

  1. I very rarely text, and when I do I am texting my husband from home, sitting down, and out of harm’s way. It has always amazed me how oblivious people are while they have their face buried in their cell phones. I find it annoying as hell. Loved your post. ♥

  2. I never do that, and for a good reason. I once checked my phone carelessly while walking (rather quickly) to school, only to run into a lamppost. The collision wasn’t extreme, but enough so to be rather painful. Mostly it pissed me off because my friend who was with me bent down in laughter…. I kinda wish you’d been there, to tell me “hey buddy, look up, and AVOID THE DAMN LAMPPOST!”

  3. Well… Humans can be so exasperating, can’t they. I mean ‘we’. Love your post, although I’m probably guilty of it as well, I’m just glad someone figured out a way to do it in a more effective way.

    1. We all have our exasperating points, I think. I’m sure somewhere out there someone is venting via blog post about something I’ve done/did/will do. Thanks for commenting, Yeshu!

  4. Damn, now I shamefully realise that I can occasionally be one of those phone people. Although it WOULD help to have someone follow me around and yell instructions on a daily basis. I tend to forget stuff.

    1. No shame in it. I did it, too. But I think the woman in the car is right in saying that we’re expecting others to look out for our safety when we walk and text. And I think what you may be wanting is a personal assistant. Not so much a parent watching your every move. Big difference. Thanks for your comment, Daniel.

  5. I’m not so much on the phone but I used to read and walk, about as stupid really. I walked into lamp posts on more than one occasion, but the kicker was that the third time I thought I had walked into someone and I apologised to the lamp post before I looked up.
    Mortifying.
    I’ve stopped reading and walking now, not a good habit!!
    And I’m with you, people on their phones who stop abruptly right in the way to text also drive me up the wall. Love that idea of putting people in nappies so they don’t have to take time off their phones, that made me laugh!

  6. I walked into a pole whilst I was texting once. Nobody warned me but they sure did laugh and clapped. I laughed too; it was more funny than embarrassing. But that was the last time I walked whilst texting. Lesson learned.

    Loved the story. I giggled.

    1. Glad it put a smile on your face, Renae. I will admit to doing it, too, when I first got my phone. But I soon retired the practice wanting to enjoy the time I had before walking into work.

  7. As always, your words get into my head and become alive. You have a great gift for making those letters add up to more than their sum – and I’m not talking algebra 🙂

      1. Ah, I only liked the short 42 word one, and got a bit confused with the summer thing they are running now. I know I could do 42 words again, bu got out of the habit. Note to self: kick up the bottom!

  8. Ha – this made me chuckle Nate! You are bang on right though about telling folks to look up. I might just start this myself in Glasgow. Probably will end with a black eye though!! I also really enjoyed the sense of cityscape that you created here. Plus, I had voices in my head for the characters when reading which is cool for such a short piece.

    1. I only say it to the people who might get hurt or might run straight into me. If I said it to all of the people walking and staring at their phones, I’d never get to work! Thanks for your kind words, Glasgow!

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