This bird
must wait.

I made a bad choice. You and I were sitting together and I glanced at my cell phone. I was expecting a message and it was suddenly irresistible. I apologize for this rudeness.

Sometimes this cell phone seems like a little bird in my pocket. And I want to take the bird out and hear its song.

But it isn’t a bird. It’s a cell phone. And it can wait.

There have been some complaints recently about this behavior. I’ve been caught preferring my Treo to real live humans. I’ve been checking email, or Googling some fact, or looking at my phone messages — rather than keeping my attention on the people beside me.

Egad. That’s rude. It’s also short-sighted. I’m likelier to learn something from people standing with me than I am from the messages in my hand.

That’s what Tolstoy taught us in 1903, in the first essay discouraging us from being distracted by our cell phones. (This wonderful story was brought to my attention by my teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn.)

Apologies are worthy only if the apologizer changes the offending behavior. So here is my promise:

I will ignore my cell phone when you are with me.

And, so, I have now revised my Promises. Please hold me to them.