I choose to believe I have friends, and chatted with one of them recently in the lobby of a nursing home. I felt the conversation was going extremely well. I listened attentively, and contributed interesting nuggets and wry witticisms on various long-term care topics.
Every non-verbal body language signal she sent supported my perception of personal communication excellence. Except for one—she kept looking at her Apple watch.
Now, to my knowledge, since the dawn of time only two reasons have ever motivated a furtive glance at one’s wrist— to track the growth of an irregularly-shaped mole or to discover the time.
Furthermore, data dating back to the first wrist-worn sundial proves that when people check their watches during conversation, 94.8% of the time it’s because they’re bored and wish to escape. In the remaining 5.2% of cases, they’re trying to calculate how many hours they have left before being killed by that irregularly-shaped mole.
That’s probably why, deeply programmed into my modern brain in evolutionary ways I can’t hope to understand, I’m preordained to take offense at every sly lift of the wrist and downward head twist. It’s getting so the moment I see one of these devices attached to an approaching arm, I brace myself for the inevitable blows to my self-esteem that will occur throughout our interaction.
Not to generalize, but I’ve never seen the owner of an Apple watch not doing this. Whether they’re talking to a CNA, family member, boss, spouse, litigating attorney or pope, the conversation will be repeatedly interrupted with an extraneous series of wrist-glances, taps and facial expressions that would destroy the psyche of any sensitive human and most pets.
Admittedly, many people are guilty of doing something similar with their phone, feeling that irresistible buzz in a pocket and rudely checking it out during a personal interaction. I’ve done it myself, as recently as today. But somehow, even that disrespectful act seems less intrusive and disruptive.
Maybe that’s because after a few decades of experience, we all subconsciously know the myriad tasks that amazing little machine performs, and that there are dozens of reasons you could be looking at it, only one of which might involve the clock.
Not so, yet, with the watch, which has been single-purpose for all but the past few years. Someday many decades hence, perhaps we’ll instinctively understand that when you look at your wrist, it’s not necessarily a reflection on the person you’re talking to. But for now, it’s just rude.
So, for all you Apple watch-wearing, wrist-twisting head-tilters out there, please understand that we know you’re good, honest, hard-working, caring and compassionate people. When you look at your watch, you might have an innocent reason—like checking your dangerously elevated heart rate, reading the text rescheduling your deposition or clearing the reminder that PDPM starts October 1.
Your intention is almost certainly pure, and your action unrelated to our charm or interpersonal skills. It probably isn’t just about us.
But it really doesn’t matter if you aren’t checking the time, because it looks like you are—and that’s all that’s important.
So stop it. Just stop it.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.