My mother used this phrase to indicate that proper attention was not being paid or there was improper 'tracking' in regard to a conversation or instructions. It was usually delivered in a slightly sarcastic tone . . . it meant that we should join whatever was going on at the time, that there was a current issue with which we needed to be familiar, so get involved, speak up, and hop to it.
More desirable distractions, namely whatever is in one's own mind, haven't diminished in the slightest with age. And, it has become surprisingly easy to zone out and slide into alpha state, being only slightly aware of any heightening din around and within a particular spot. It's a lot like being at a crowded beach, blocking everything out except sounds of the surf, or circling gulls. Ignoring people is artful, clever technique . . . it will save your life.
It's easier in movies . . . quiet, dark, focus is on the screen, talking above whispers is inappropriate, viewers file out mostly without conversation. Entering the restroom AFTER the movie is disastrous, especially if the movie was good. Just go to Circle K down the street. The cashiers do not speak. Maybe they can't . . . this works to advantage.
While in traffic, never, ever look at people in other vehicles. This implies connection, and this you do not want. Simply pretend that no one exists except you . . . practice a feeling of isolation, of being alone in the universe. Draw the line when the car in front of you stops, and apply brakes, as if you just decided to stop . . . then decide to accelerate when lights change. With a bit of practice, it will seem as if you are alone, and your heart rate will slow, even in heavy traffic.
At cocktail parties, simply get your drink and stand in one place for approximately ten minutes, then casually move to another spot. Assume a pleasant, smiling countenance, slowly sip your drink, and wait for someone to approach you. If no one does, this is preferable. If it looks as someone is heading your way, it may be possible to move away smoothly before the person reaches you to take your position in another, more secluded spot. Do this three times, finish your drink, and leave, smiling at or thanking the host/hostess briefly. No one will notice that you haven't spoken to a soul present -- but you have made your appearance.
When forced to attend dinner with several people, be sure to smile a lot and eat slowly. Very slowly. Feign interest and occasionally nod knowingly, with tacit approval, when others are speaking . . . this passes time and ensures that someone else will be talking for long periods of time. When the person on your left starts to speak directly to you, quickly turn to the person on your right as you are about to begin a conversation. Do exactly the same in reverse. If your body language is cleverly designed and delivered, no one will be the wiser and you will at least be relieved of the necessity to respond to trivial smalltalk.
Avoidance of close interactions with most people adds years to life. Silence is golden. Solitude isn't always available, but can be simulated. Go for it.