Lately, I’ve got this awkward feeling when I’m sitting next to one of my buddies downing a few cold ones after work. He comes in, sits down, nods a quick greeting and then proceeds to start staring at some insipid little device that seems to have permanently fused itself to his right hand. He stares directly into that glowing little rectangle and is momentarily mesmerized by what it seems to be saying to him. When that moment fades, he makes a flicking motion with his left hand and he takes on a demeanor as if he was placed in a trance.

My head is hanging heavy with the thoughts of him in mind
'Tis sacrilege for us to take advantage of the blind
So, tell before you come to me from out of yonder skies
A man's a man who looks a man right between the eyes

I sit there in silence, afraid to break the spell. I wonder to myself what that glowing rectangle is saying to him. Does it hold the keys to the universe? Does it answer the age old question on whether there’s an afterlife? Will it turn lead into gold? Am I and the others that surround him that boring?

And the pain that we can bring to him
I don't think he could beat
Please don't ask me how I know
I've just been up that street
And all the people living there
Have been silenced by their own lies
A man's a man who looks a man right between the eyes

After what seems like an eternity he finally puts the device down on the bar and asks “what’s up?” Before I can answer the box emits a strange sound and since it never seems to stray away from arms length he snatches it up with one hand and waves to me with the other. He burrows his head down in what has become an all too familiar pose and squints his eyes to ensure that the small print can be read.

I’m once again left to wonder to myself what it says to him. Is it jealous because he might engage in conversation? He reads what the box tells him and then frantically starts tapping away at the mini keyboard. I wander outside for a smoke and to ponder my own thoughts.

And talking from experience I know how he would feel
Waking up and finding that his one love wasn't real
But the age of truth will soon appear, Aquarius arrives
A man's a man who looks a man right between the eyes

Does this machine love him back? Does it offer some kind of comfort or solace that compares with direct human contact? Have I been replaced by something with no soul, feeling or emotions? It does not seem like other machines. It is immune or ambivalent to blackouts and power outages and mood swings.

I smoke my smoke and wander back inside. I notice more and more people at the bar or sitting at the tables have assumed the same posture. There are little if any verbal conversations being held and the only sound that I hear is that of the television belching out the evening news.

I miss my old friend.

Come to think of it, I also miss making new ones.

Note: I first heard this song way back in 1971 on the album 4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The lyrics themselves were penned by Graham Nash and to me are just as relevant today as they were back then.

Maybe even more so.

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