Eating dinner at a bar the other night, I sat next to a sales rep for a company that produces portable home dialysis units. He was drinking pretty hard, celebrating a deal that he'd just closed and telling me how soaring diabetes rates were going to create ever greater demand for his revolutionary product. I thought he was going to propose a toast to kidney failure.
But what bothered me most about our conversation was the streamlined plastic phone device implanted in his right ear and connected via Bluetooth to the Palm Treo lying on the bar in front of him. Every minute or two the earjack would light up, suddenly pulsing white and blue, and I'd forget whatever I was saying to him or whatever he was saying to me. Finally, I asked him what the light was. "That just means the thing's turned on," he said. As he said this, he was looking at his Treo screen, which he did about every thirty or forty seconds. His face changed -- had some important message arrived? Still speaking to me, but without much focus now, he tapped out a line or two of text with his amazingly prehensile thumbs. He'd left the scene, I sensed; he was somewhere else. At headquarters, perhaps. And I'd been placed on hold.