Busy moms do it out of necessity. Drivers do it at 60 mph. And teenagers do it better than anybody.
Multitasking. No longer mere computer lingo, the word now describes life as we know it. Noshing on a burger while steering a car through traffic while fumbling with directions.
Gone are the days of one task at a time. Now we do everything simultaneously. Work. Play. Eat. Travel. We feel so efficient, so on top of things. Look, Ma no hands!
But when one of those multiple tasks includes a human being, we may be missing what matters most: an eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart connection.
I watched a young mother at the post office sort through her mail, talk on her cell phone, and try to keep tabs on her toddler. Nothing too dangerous there. Except she tossed out a letter, only to realize she meant to keep it, called out to her wayward little girl without really getting her attention, and apologized numerous times into her phone, "Sorry what did you say?"
The child was clearly frustrated. No doubt the caller on the other end of the line was, too. Both of them received the same unintentional message: "You're third on my list of priorities right now."
Do we really have to do three things at once to feel productive?
Apparently we do, and I'm the worst of sinners.
While on the phone with a long-winded friend, I open my e-mail, turning down the computer speakers so she won't hear the telltale sound effects, even as I wave a sheet of fast-food coupons at my husband, pointing to what I want for lunch.1