Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe the disturbing experience I had today is proof positive that the Doomsday Clock is thundering toward the end of civilization as we know it.
I was in a hurry this morning and in a complete departure from my daily habit of at least 45 years, I neglected to put on my watch. Halfway to work, I started having that panicky feeling that I’d forgotten something. I quickly looked down to see if I was wearing pants—don’t laugh, it happens. Fortunately, my pants were on (this time) and I was even wearing matching shoes, so I tried to dismiss the nagging thought that something was missing.
It was not until I was several minutes into teaching my “ESL for Millennials” class that I glanced at my wrist and made the shocking realization that it was buck naked, with only a faint tan line where my timepiece should have been.
“Yikes,” I exclaimed. (Yes, I actually do use the word “yikes.”) “I forgot to put on my watch. What time is it, you guys?”
And that’s when the shock of forgetting my watch was completely eclipsed by my shock at seeing the entire class grab their phones to check the time. When I asked if anyone had a watch, I received only blank stares in response as if I’d asked for a kerosene lamp. No one had a watch, not even a fancy high-tech one. I felt so old at that moment I thought I might sprout a Dowager’s hump on the spot.
I picked up my ear trumpet so I could clearly hear my class explain that watches are unnecessary nowadays when everyone has a phone. “We just look at our phones,” they cried.
But, I countered, sometimes your phone isn’t in front of you—it’s in your purse, your pocket, your backpack and it’s inconvenient to get it out just to check the time.
Yes, they conceded, sometimes this was an issue. One student even lamented that it was indeed unfortunate you couldn’t somehow strap your phone onto your body (like, possibly on your arm?), so you could steal a furtive glance at the time in a boring class—of course, not my class, he assured me.
Wow, a wearable clock, what a brilliant idea! If only someone would invent something like that. I thought my head would explode, but things were about to go even further south. By sheer coincidence, part of the day’s lesson involved making a timeline for daily activities. The students opened their books and pandemonium broke out when they came face to face with this horrifying sight.
Yes, a blank clock face. Actually, several of them. The students were to draw hands on the clocks and write activities that corresponded to the times, using different verb tenses. For example, show the clock at 10:30 and write, “I had a meeting at 10:30 this morning.”
“We don’t know how to do that clock thing in English!” they all yelled out in panicked confusion.
In English? Now I was the one who was truly confused. Speaking English is not necessary to do that “clock thing,” but it quickly became apparent English was not the issue. They had no clue how to draw hands on a clock or decipher what the big hand and the little hand signified when I did a few examples on the board for them. The stunning truth was they could only read digital clocks.
As I stood there, letting that realization sink in, I suddenly felt a bit faint and decided to dismiss class without even looking at anyone’s phone. My stomach told me it was time for lunch and my husband was probably out in the parking lot, waiting to pick me up in our newfangled horseless carriage. I just prayed we made it home safely before the Doomsday Clock struck twelve.