You see them everywhere. You see them walking down the street. You see them sitting in the dentist’s office or the doctor’s office. You see them in airports, in grocery stores, at football games, at Starbucks, at the public library. You see them in line at the sandwich shop. Worst of all, you see them operating motor vehicles.
But they don’t see you. They don’t see you because they are texting, their eyes fixed to the screen of their mobile phone or Blackberry or iPhone. The texters are immediately recognizable by the blank and stupid look on their faces. This look is well-documented and is known technically as the Zombie Stare.
The zombie texters (or t-zombies) with their zombie stares are considered to be harmless in many situations. For one thing, unlike real zombies, they are not out there searching for human flesh, relying as they do on incoming or outgoing messages for their next fix. In sitting situations, t-zombies, in the great majority of cases, do not pose a significant danger, at least to others.
They do, however, incur the risk of inadvertently inviting violence to their persons from non-zombies in their vicinity in such sitting venues as theaters, churches and funerals, where the glowing screen or the dancing thumb is detrimental to the general tranquility. And there are an increasing number of cases where zombie texters, entranced by their texting, have refused to relinquish a stall in a public lavatory. In many cases, this leads to quite a commotion, and often causes a big stink.
Injuries and physical altercations rise to alarming numbers when t-zombies get off the can and start moving around. These ambulatory t-zombies are a growing menace on our sidewalks and public thoroughfares. It would be of little concern if they merely ran into trees or light poles or brick walls, or perhaps fell to their deaths into open manholes or off of tall buildings. But the problem is, they present a clear and present danger to their fellow pedestrians, who are bumped, jostled or knocked over. Particularly vulnerable are animals, small children and the elderly, who, for whatever reason are not wise to the ways of modern life and who have not learned defensive maneuvers essential to avoiding collisions with oblivious t-zombies.
Initially, many scientists were of the opinion that t-zombies were a positive development, evolution-wise, from mobile phone vulgarians (known in the research world as cell a-holes). T-zombies did not poison public spaces with braying, self-important semi-monologues, nor did they inflict upon bystanders their tedious sexy-time soliloquies. But it soon became clear that t-zombies were a lot scarier behind the wheel than the cell a-holes, who, though lost in their own little world, were at least partially cognizant of vehicles or pedestrians in the near vicinity.
T-zombies now rule the road. You see them at stoplights gazing downward with the now familiar and telltale zombie stare, coming to life only when someone behind them beeps their horn. You see them cruising along city streets and interstate freeways, heads bobbing up and down to get the latest text or to thumb their own numbing banalities into the wireless ether. Sure as texting, the t-zombies will rear-end somebody, or broadside a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian at an intersection.
Now, such collisions would result in a net plus for our human species if the t-zombies were the only ones to suffer negative consequences, either of bodily injury or of physical death (their minds, it is universally agreed, have long since vacated their cranial region). Scientists have, by the way, reported a curious finding in autopsies performed on t-zombies: A deceased t-zombie will, up until several hours after death, display definite signs of neuromuscular activity in the texting hand, particularly in the thumb area. In a young t-zombie, the thumb might even twitch for a couple of days, as if searching for a key to press.
As we know, non-zombies pay the price for the dancing thumbs and lifeless stares of t-zombies. If something is not done fairly soon, the t-zombies will be the sole inhabitants, not just of the road but also of the Earth. One proposal, which is attracting interest from several quarters, is to round up t-zombies (they are easy to recognize) and re-locate them to a remote region at a safe distance from non-zombies. Scientists say they could set up simulated environments in which t-zombies could text their brains out, which, for the most part, they have already done, and never know the difference.
Sat., Aug. 2, 2 p.m. / Free