Last Monday I was on the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge, formerly known as the Bay Bridge, on the Amtrak bus. I was very high up and it was a beautiful afternoon—blue skies, sailboats, and the bridges brand-new steel symmetry were all working together in a magical way. On a scale from 1 to 10, I’d say my mood was about a 7, which is very good for me. At one point I started to text my friend, and then I looked around and saw that everyone on the bus—every single person—was looking at their phone. I said to myself, I am not going to be one of those people. I am going to look at San Francisco Bay. I am going to look at the contrast of white sails against blue water, steel arches reaching up to the heavens, at Alcaltraz and Angel Island sitting in the misty distance. I stared. I stared and stared. Soak it in, I commanded to myself. This is one of the finest views in the world. Plus, you are going to die one day, and you do not want your last words to be, “My phone!”
When we arrived in Oakland, there was less to look at. I took out my phone and started to text my friend. We were talking about Israel, which we both admitted we knew nothing about, and he told me one thing he knew and I told him one thing I knew, and we were like, OK, that’s enough. We talked about friends of ours who were going on a date. He wrote "hahaha" to something I said about that. I wrote "lol" (I’m not shy about "lol", I find "lol" much more gratifying than "hahahaha," personally) to a joke he made about reading the entire Bible, setting it down, and saying “What a bunch of assholes.”
Now, truly, this was so much more fun than forcing myself to look at the view from the bridge. I was like, fuck the view from the bridge. When I was making myself look at it, I was bored. I know what it looks like, that water and sky are blue, that islands are green, that sailboats are white. There’s no new information there. But this conversation had never taken place before, not exactly like this, and we would never be interested in these same things at the same time and be laughing at them the same way. I'm not saying another person wouldn't have liked the view more than the conversation, but I didn't need to be that person.
Now, you may say that the view from the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge, formerly known as the Bay Bridge, is never quite the same from one day to the next, either, but I’m here to tell you that, yeah, it pretty much is. And I will never force myself to appreciate it again. If I want to, I will, but it’s not mandatory. I’m the one making the rules around here. No more mandatory soaking it in. If I die on top of Machu Picchu texting "omg what a bitch" to the person standing next to me, I will not die ashamed.
Previously: House of Cards in One Day; or, A Tale of Bravery
Photo via johnkay/flickr.