Phone Yawns

Highlights from Hair Balls


Phone Yawns
The contagion of checking your cell.

By Craig Hlavaty

A few weeks back I told you about Phantom Cell Phone Vibration Syndrome, the stupefying first-world problem that we social-media addicts suffer from in which our thighs vibrate where phones usually reside in our pockets. Plenty of friends and commenters chimed in with their stories of this torrid phenomenon ravaging a generation.

Along the way, I caught wind of another social-media syndrome: the phone yawn. Much like the regular fatigue-induced tic, a phone yawn is what happens when one person in close quarters checks his cell phone for messages or e-mail and others begin to follow suit. Much as how in certain instances yawning can be contagious. You may be feeling the urge to yawn now. Stop it — your boss may be watching.

The phone yawn was first pointed out on Urban Dictionary, usually the first place in modern society where all good sociological info comes from.

"It's like clockwork. I do it on purpose sometimes in a sadistic, mocking, Pavlovian fashion," says my friend Chris, a local creative director. Once one person checks his phone, it's only a matter of time until the whole group is doing it and sitting in silence, only shattered by stuttering, distracted half-speech.

It could also be construed as boredom with current surroundings and people, too. Everyone knows it's happening, but few will call attention to it. I have walked into bars at the peak of business in the late evening and seen every other person pecking on a smart phone.

Some do it to dissuade conversation and eye contact. For some, like myself, the phone is my constant lunch and dinner date when I'm alone. You aren't really lonely if millions of people are at your fingertips, right? Even still, there is a degree of etiquette when it comes to phone yawns.

Sometimes pulling out the phone is a good way to gauge someone's lack of interest in the conversation, too. Which is doubly heartbreaking. But once you become entranced in your phone, you stop caring. The phone in this modern age is like a child's pacifier.

It's hard to come back to having a relevant conversation once the phones are introduced into the equation, though. It's also possible that our necks will slowly evolve downward from all the texting and Web-surfing we do on our phones.

Did you check your phone while reading this? Shame on you.

PERRY 2012

What If Perry Weren't Perry?
He'd be kicking Obama's ass.

By Terrence McCoy

What if Rick Perry had never said, "Oops"? What if he could have, for Christ's sake, just remembered that he had wanted to gut the Department of Energy? What if he hadn't climbed into a tan coat and Brett Favre jeans and released that abominable YouTube video — you know, the gay one.

In other words, what if Rick Perry hadn't been Rick Perry? If Rick Perry wasn't Rick Perry, then Rick Perry would have been a pretty strong Republican presidential nominee. Way stronger than Mitt Romney.

Here's why: Texas — and Houston in particular — is dominating right now. Americans at their core care about few things. The economy, jobs and the housing market. It's that simple. They don't want to lose their jobs, or their home's price to dissolve into the mist.

And if that's the barometer, Perry would have had some staggering statistics to brandish. Texas added 12,500 non-farm jobs in May, the Texas Workforce Commission reported last week. It was the 22nd straight month of growth. What's more, the state has added nearly 290,000 private sector jobs. This, while the U.S. unemployment rate languishes at 8.2 percent. Texas's rate, meanwhile, hovers in the mid-6s.

Consider next: Houston's housing market. In May, nearly 6,200 houses were sold in Houston, an arresting 24 percent increase over May of last year. What's more, as people flood the city to gobble up those private-sector jobs, these homes are going for 7.1 percent higher than they did at this time last year.

Then there's Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts. Though he lowered unemployment in his state from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his tenure, this was during a very different epoch in our national narrative, when the American dream seemed more contract than myth, a time of revolving credit and dreams of bigger homes and nicer cars. Yes, his state's unemployment dropped, but it still ranked 47th in the nation in terms of job creation.

So what does all that mean? It means that Perry — for all his failings — is in possession of one formidable record of enabling job growth during a time of malaise and tepid economic recovery.

It also means: Thank Allah Rick Perry is Rick Perry. And he's not in this race.