I’m ready for gyms to ban phones.
We were at our favorite “Y,” the Lake Houston Y, of course, doing the weight-lifting thing and I spotted out one of the machines we wanted to use.
Somebody already was on it.
We’re pretty flexible, so we went to another machine. After our usual four sets I looked over at the machine we really wanted to use. Same guy. Still at the machine.
Yup, we’re still flexible. Went somewhere else. Two of us. Four more sets. Looked over at that machine we really, really wanted to use.
Same guy. Still at the machine.
Did I mention that he’d been scrolling on his phone the whole time?
Two of us worked out on three machines. Four sets. He was at the same machine the whole time. One guy. No sets. Lots of scrolling.
I scrounged up my “nice guy” voice, walked over, got him to remove his ear phones and asked him how many sets he had left.
“Three,” he told me. He went back to scrolling. I went back to seething.
Scrolling on your cell phone at the gym is not a world-shaking calamity, I know, but it sure can get in the way of getting your workout done.
I watched a colleague texting away as she walked to her car, tripped over a curb, and smashed her face into the concrete.
I saw a lonely guy at Italiano’s picking at his lasagna while his fellow diner chatted on the phone the entire time they were at their table. As they left, the colleague was still on the phone.
I did a little Googling and discovered that “…people develop the habit of checking their phone often because it has been pleasurable in the past. The feeling you get when you find a new text or push notification that you find exciting sends a ‘reward’ impulse to your brain – which makes you want to check your phone more often to recreate that positive feeling.”
Thank you, Elliot Berkman, psychology professor at the University of Oregon. I knew there was a scientific reason for scrolling away and Berkman calls it “Reward Learning.”
I call it irritating and I’m guilty, too.
“You spent the whole luncheon up there on the dais while the speakers were talking and you never looked up from your cell phone,” one of the luncheon organizers told me.
I’d been invited to our annual volunteer luncheon and was seated at the front table. There I was, scrolling and texting away during the program and in front of a couple hundred people.
I was mortified – and it taught me a lesson. My rule (loosely administered): Never scroll, text or talk on the phone in public.
That University of Oregon psychology professor doesn’t have many good suggestions for cell phone addiction. Go cold turkey, he says, or replace your phone habit with something new? For most of us, that would be eating, I suppose. That could be worse.
Oh, the “scroller” at the Y came by as we were finishing up. “I’m done,” he said nicely.
We were done, too.

What irritates you? Tell Tom. He’ll concoct a Tall Tale all about your irritation. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.