Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Death of Down Time

Yogi Berra has passed away. One of the greatest ballplayers, on the greatest team, of the greatest generation is gone. He felt like my last real link to that time period in baseball history. I've seen monument park in Yankee Stadium. The Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio plaques, casted in bronze with epitaphs to remind me how good and real they were. But Yogi was here, and here for a long time. He didn't just represent what that generation was about, he was what that generation was about. He was a war hero. He was a great ballplayer and great family man. His Yogi-isms weren't composed tweets or snarky Facebook posts. They were conversations, with real people. 

And it's gotten me thinking about my generation. Plenty of articles have been written about the danger of (anti) social media. How it hurts our ability to connect with each other. How we've become dependent on it for just about everything (education, work, entertainment, conversation, etc.). Over the last few years I've noticed it invading my life in a new and illusive way. My down time...or lack there of. 

Standing in my hotel lobby, waiting for the elevator to work its way down from the 26th floor, my mind senses that there will be some amount of seconds/minutes before its scheduled arrival. Simultaneously as my head realizes this, my hands begin to reach for my phone. You know, the big oversized iPhone 6 Plus that barely fits into my slim cut jeans back pocket. I pull out the phone/tablet/TV/game system and scroll through my 40+ apps to see which one will fill the next 40+ seconds of my life until this elevator gets here (ugh, why is it taking so long!). Instagram. That's the ticket. I scroll again, this time down, through a few new pics. My buddies' breakfast from this morning, no caption because what can you really say about pancakes with toasted pecans. An airplane wing from the window seat, I wonder if she got the exit row? 470 likes! I mean, it's a good picture, but not that good.

It's the little experiences like that throughout the day that have me grieving the death of my down time. My time to day dream and think deeply. My time to be still and listen. My time to be brave and start a conversation. Nowhere is this more evident than in my sanctuary for half the year, the clubhouse. 

I wonder sometimes what it was like in Yogi's clubhouse. Before iPhones and tablets. Before direcTV and NFL Sunday Ticket. Baseball has been relatively unchanged in its structure for over 100 years, so I have to believe that they experienced the same daily lulls that we experience. The multiple 20 minute or so gaps between the time you arrive and the time the game starts. Maybe they played a lot of cards. Maybe they got really good at crossword puzzles. Maybe they read the paper. Possibly, same as us, they filled their time with the "things" that were around them. It's also entirely likely that a large portion of their time was spent actually talking face to face with their teammates. Conversations about any number of things (because there are any number of topics if you really try). And those conversations probably felt less taxing than they do today. The idea of a twenty minute conversation with someone today would give most of us hives. Texting for twenty minutes, no problem. But eye contact and real words for that long...awkward! Therefore, if you walk into any professional baseball clubhouse these days you will see 25-30 guys staring down at their assorted media devices killing their time. Both literally and metaphorically. Clash of Clans. Solitaire. Fantasy football research. Netflix. Endless scrolling of the Twitterverse and Instagalaxy. Texts on texts on texts. If any of us looks up for longer than a few seconds we realize how zombie-ish we all look. We feel bad that this is what it's come to. Then our down time is over and we move onto the next thing. 

I wish this was one of those articles where at the end I lay out a few quick and easy steps to get my generation back on track. A simple to-do list of things that will breathe life back into our down time. But unfortunately, this isn't that type of article. I'm writing this on my iPhone 6 giant. I already instagrammed my coffee this morning. I haven't talked to a single person (except "thank you, bro" to my barista). I'm guilty. I wonder what Yogi would do. What he'd say about all this. I wonder what stories he could have told me about his teammates? The ones he had a bunch of 20 minute conversations with. I wonder what I could tell him that would interest him? I don't think he'd want to hear about my friend's latte from that hipster coffee shop in Atlanta. I should probably use my down time to come up with some new material. 

Ding. Elevator's here. Gotta run.