We are doomed

Revelation came while sitting on the light tan rotating stool in Exam Room Three of our office at 3:11pm on Thursday.  That is the moment Lisa’s cell phone rang, filling the room with the chirps of a mythical bird, the sort of sound that drives cats and doctors insane. The phone whipped from its holster and Lisa answered.  It was a dear friend confirming dinner plans.  Lisa and her invisible electro-buddy then had an animated conversation lasting one minute twenty-six seconds, to which I was passive partner; they agreed on time, place and who would bring the wine to the evidently BYOB fish restaurant, which I learned has excellent lobster.  This was time enough; when the call was complete, and the intrusion lovingly cradled back in her purse, the future was clear…mankind is doomed.

You see I was meeting with Lisa to talk about the results of her breast cancer tests.  CT scans, chemo, and hair loss.  Staging, pathology and vomiting.  Living and, just maybe, dying.   How cancer would change her life; Deep, complex challenges that stress the intellectual and emotional capacity, not to mention attention span, of any person.  However, when that bird sang, zombie-like Lisa was magically carried away.

Some will say that the phone call was an act of denial; it was her way of taking a break, as no one really likes to be with an oncologist at those sorts of times. That was not the case … she was compelled and once connected to the electric web was transported.  Lisa switched from our visit as if she was shutting off a light, unable to resist the alternative illumination of the call.  Remarkably, this was the fifth time on that Thursday that a patient’s phone signaled during a visit; in four of the cases the patient, sitting three feet from me, answered the call, and two patients completed their telemeets while I waited.

Why do I think this spells the end of homo sapien life?  Well, I understand interrupting Thanksgiving by cell, those relatives are boring; or talking loudly about personal hygiene on an elevator full of strangers; or yelling on an iPhone driving 45 miles an hour through a school zone, as children should stay out of the road.  On a date with that gorgeous guy or gal both of you should be on cell phones, for who really wants romance when the disembodied warmth of a microscopic speaker beckons; no doubt the reproduction of the whole race will dwindle.  However, if you cannot stay free of the worldwide phone web long enough cure your cancer and stay alive, than I think there is a problem.

This can only mean that cell phones have the power to drain your will to live. The digital connection deprives the brain of its survival instinct, with thought and free will neutralized.  It is the final function of modern culture; Society fattens with supersized nutrition, baths you in chemicals and radiation, addicts you to smoke while you sit frozen in front of a 145 inch TV and when you finally get cancer, a result of being fatally groomed by a dirty unhealthy lifestyle, your soul is pulled out of you body through your ear so you can not even focus enough to save your life.

I am not certain there is any hope as long as people insist on living outside the moment, the place and their own bodies.  However, I have a thought; I am going write an App.  It will be called the “Me” App.  In high stress or risk situations, the Me App will call you…. that is the phone itself calls “the patient.”  When answered, and you know you will answer it, the App in your own voice says, “Hey, are you paying attention? This is important!”  In addition, as any real friend, the Me App will offer to listen and record, but will not speak anymore.

At the same time the Me App answers all incoming calls with a nurturing disclaimer; “Lisa hopes you are having a special fabulous day, because each day is precious. Lisa would love to talk to you, really she would, but she is attending to the serious business of life.  Perhaps she is watching the sunset, holding her baby daughter or out for a jog.  Live for this moment.  Chirp.”



  • Yes..Doomed I hope not..but destined to change more than we could imagine or want! Rewired whilst no-one is looking or indeed paying attention.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      You are so right ... the depth and breadth of the revolution which is happening to the definition of "human" is beyond our comprehension. jcs
  • Besides the fact that the patients had their phones on, which is not allowed in my doctor's office, it was incredibly rude of them to answer them as well! I know I shouldn't be surprised, but the decline in common courtesy and manners in today's society still amazes me. I can't imagine not giving my doctor my full attention during an appointment, much less one that would determine the next step of treatment for a cancer diagnosis. You definitely have an abundance of patience and compassion, and you sound like a wonderful doctor!
    • James Salwitz, MD
      I wonder if we are gradually loosing a basic feeling of situational awareness and direct personal interaction as we are drawn into social media and electronic communication? E-communication is much less threatening and has much less nuance, therefore is easier and safer. jcs
  • Great post! I am a big believer in advocating for your own health. It's one of those things that won't happen unless you take full responsibility. The idea of the "me" app had me laughing out loud. Literally. It would be useful in many situations!
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thanks very much. As it has been said many times, "good fences make for good neighbors." Perhaps that is even more true in an electronically integrated world. jcs

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