I’m on the bus to Patong — I landed on the island of Phuket this morning at 0730. (Very military but I like that format!). I’m on the bus to my hostel which is full of travellers as it’s the main bus that runs continually connecting the airport in the north to various beaches and resorts southward. It also stops for locals as it’s a ‘Smart Bus’ apparently which I assume allows for them to pay using their pass cards — this is only my assumption, but anyway…
Just over half–way along my route an older couple get on, I’d say in their 60’s, they’re both obviously well traveled, or retired beach volleyball players! I’m sat one row from the rear and I hear the lady say aloud, in a heavy Australian accent, how there was a time when young gentlemen would release their seat to an older lady and other things about there being no respect and how things have changed. I’ll be candid, she wasn’t the most frail, nor her partner — the sun baked skin making her look older than she was. But her words got my attention.
At first no-one reacted then a Thai lady in her late 30’s, which meant she was more than likely 85+, stood and offered her seat! At first I thought ‘C’mon, you’re not that old!’, but then I started to consider the situation.
There are multiple facets to the situation; different cultures, language barriers, social change but still; the Thai lady was the only one to react! And before you say anything I was at the back OK! Then it hit me — something I’m noticing more and more — all the others on the bus had their earbuds in, were inside their own bubbles, ignorant to the world around them bar two Israeli guys who thought it was entertaining that someone would do such — could be cultural difference, could just be twats, who knows…
Anyway, people staring at their phones or with their ears filled with plastic or worse both is a factor I’ve had issues with through my own travels. Ive has people walking into me, dragging their feet in busy doorways on trains, I’ve witnessed near misses at street corners with scooters among many other variants. It’s been scientifically proven that we use our hearing for spacial awareness but what about social awareness? What effect is that having on society as a whole?
Because this subject could easily become enormous I’ll keep it to the realm of the traveller. I’m an avid people watcher and I’m fascinated by how we tick and our patterns of habit. Since starting my journey I’ve noticed how earbuds and phones have affected hostelling and the social beauty of travel. So many times have I walked into a social area to find 90% of the occupants in their own bubbles, eyes wide to the screen, ears barricaded with shiny white apples. Lately I’ve noticed more people bringing a full-size laptop in their pack!. But anyway, my point is this; try making conversation or getting someone’s attention for a book from the shelf without getting a look of confusion or worse a glare of annoyance when in such situations.
I know times change and tech is an amazing thing but if not controlled like any other habit, it can have unhealthy consequences! I hope it doesn’t get worse, but after observing an entire platform in Bangkok with ‘dislocated vertebra’ and glazed eyes I was concerned! I even witnessed a couple holding each other with their screens 12cm from their faces and their foreheads touching — not one word said, just a frantic movement of thumbs in a bubble.