Long Lake Lore

Put The Damn Phone Down

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Put The Damn Phone Down

Ah, a nice family walk.

Sitting on my deck in Grand County, Colorado, I see something that warms my heart: families taking morning and evening walks. Fido or Sparky leads, sniffing every bush and leaving their mark at every tree. Junior and Suzie are running along talking, yet they are not even paying enough attention to see if anyone is listening. And, ah, here come Mom and Dad, taking up the rear of the family formation. How wonderful it is to see a complete family enjoying the mountain fresh air provided by nature. I know that much of the hardship COVID brought on will be overshadowed by the goodness of those kids, finally seeing Mom and Dad walking with them. Yes, COVID was and still is horrible; the isolation kept us at home. People couldn’t physically go to work, so families had to stay home, play with their kids, and even take family walks. Dads now play with kids, having tea parties with their nine-year-olds at 9 a.m. in the living room, followed by a board meeting with the forty-nine-year olds on Zoom at 10 a.m. It was one of the few good things that came out of this horrible time.

Being a father of three and a former infantry soldier, I rarely had the opportunity to work from home in my twenty-six years of service. However, when I was able, I did play with my kids, and fortunately, at the time they were growing up, cell phones were not as popular. We loved playing a version of Cooper softball. All it took was a tennis ball, a plastic bat, and three jackets, one for each base. The kids all lined up behind each other. I was both the pitcher and all the basemen. Once the kids got up to bat and got a hit, they ran around all the bases, touching each jacket with their foot while I chased them with the ball, hoping to tag them out. We played this game for over three years when they were in elementary school. I never caught them, and they always won. A simple game with a tennis ball that a dog had previously chewed, an old plastic bat, and our jackets made for the most memorable times ever.

Recently, however, what I saw during the COVID crisis as families took walks has disturbed me. I’ve seen
wonderful families walking, but some were carrying this annoying crutch called a cell phone. So yes, you
have the perfect family, except the parents in the back are talking on their phones, obviously not paying
attention to anything. Now, let me give those parents taking up the rear some advice.

Put the damn phone down; better yet, leave it at home. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen kids without parents because both parents, albeit being geographically present, are chatting on the damn phone. Yes, I know it was not your intention to talk while walking with Junior and Suzie, but your best friend from college, the boss from work, or your mom called. Well, guess what? If you left your phone at
home, there would be a missed call, and you could call them back.

Oh, you think, “I’m carrying it for safety.” What if a moose or bear runs toward you? Well, if you think a phone will help, then good luck. Let me play this scenario:


“911, what is your emergency?”

“Ah, I’m being attacked by a bear!”

“Okay, we will dispatch a unit; they should be there in ten minutes.”

The truth is if you weren’t on your damn phone, you would have probably not walked up to the bear. And if you think a bear is going to hang around for ten minutes after mauling your ass, well, you’re wrong. I also don’t think the thirty minutes you’re gone for a walk are going to make a life-or-death situation worse. What about, “I have a nine o’clock conference call I need to take?” Okay, take the 9 a.m. conference call at home, leave the phone at the desk when you’re done, and walk at 10 a.m. Look, I know you are an important VP or CEO, but you know what? If you dropped dead tomorrow, the company would still run just fine, so what’s thirty minutes without office gossip? And oh, by the way, if the company or your department is so fragile that it would fall apart if you were not on your phone all the time, then truthfully, you have failed the most important task a leader can have: to train your subordinates.

So, for thirty minutes a day, don’t be a babysitter; be a parent, walk with your kids, and be sure to pick up Fido’s mess when he poops in my yard. Find out what’s on your kid’s mind, and when your kid or your
partner starts to drive you crazy, walk alone. But don’t forget Fido, because if you do need to talk, dogs,
except for Siberian huskies and beagles, never talk back; they are the model for listening.

I know that it sounds harsh, but take it from someone who missed every one of his kids’ first steps, who
missed the training wheels, who missed numerous sporting events, who missed school recognition events, and who missed three proms. The job is just not worth it. Plan your schedule around your family, and if you can’t because the boss is an asshole, simply fire your boss by quitting your job.

  • Take a minute and go look at your kids: If they are in sixth grade, they will be out of the house in six
    years. If they are in high school, they will be gone before the stock option you just received vests. Time is critical. Kids will never remember the stock option or the new truck, but they will remember the walk they took with you and Fido. I want you to put the phone down and go on a walk with your family. Write me a note and tell me how it felt.