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Watching a rousing game of ‘Dude, Where’s My Phone?’
 
You just never know who might surprise you along your path.
I walked into a meeting full of government folks. Representatives from USDA, FEMA, the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, Climatology and other various local types. I perused the crowd and figured out my strategy for covering the event.

I sat down next to two kind gentlemen and introduced myself. They were with one of the government agencies and looked like they were well beyond retirement age. As we sat through introductions and brief comments from the people in charge, I couldn’t help but notice my two new friends and their obsession with their smart phones.

They pulled out their BlackBerrys what seemed like every two minutes. Sifting through their email accounts, they would open one, read it and then put it away. A minute later they were pulling them out again, checking those email accounts.

As I placed my cracked iPhone on the table to record the comments being made, one of the men, trying to be inconspicuous, looked at my phone and quickly went back to his BlackBerry … for another urgent email, no doubt.

A few dings later (no, his phone was not on mute), he was finished checking his email – for at least another 30 seconds. Putting his BlackBerry in his right-hand pocket, he reached in his left-hand pocket and pulled out an iPhone – and, yes, began checking his email.

Really, dude? Two phones? Seriously?

His cohort in email obsession never even put his phone away, he just kept staring at it – and staring, and staring, I don’t think he even knew where he was. He came back to reality when the speaker ran through the list of agencies present in the room.

When their agency was announced, Dude 1 looked at Dude 2 and, simultaneously, they gave each other the thumbs-up with a cheesy smile that said: “Dude, that’s us!”

I was trying to pay attention to what was being said, but I was rather obsessed with Dude 1 and Dude 2 and their lack of manners. I couldn’t believe the behavior of these older gentlemen who obviously had no problem adopting new technology, but hadn’t adopted the proper etiquette that went with the equipment.
When the meeting broke into a roundtable discussion format, I put away my single iPhone and pulled out my laptop. The discussion was valuable and I spent the next two hours trying to hear everyone and take notes at the same time.

I had no trouble hearing some of the panelists, yet others were difficult to hear. Of course, it didn’t help having Dude 1 get up and leave the room a half-dozen times, letting the door slam shut behind him.

As I was straining to listen to a dairy farmer speak his piece, all I could hear was the annoying rustling of a potato chip bag. I turned around to see Dude 2 taking a snack break, seemingly oblivious to the entire setting.

What did I take home from this government meeting? The U.S. government needs to hold a workshop on meeting etiquette with Dude 1 and Dude 2 sitting in the front row – without their phones.
And we think teenagers are bad!

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.
12/5/2012