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Cell phone magic gone in a split second

March 06, 2008
Can you hear me now? Yes, I can -- and that's the problem. I can hear every last word you're saying into your cell phone and frankly, I would prefer not to.

Before anyone thinks I'm so opposed to instant communication that I'm still tethered to a corded rotary wall phone in my kitchen, think again. I have a cell phone and I even set my own distinctive ring tones.

Much to the dismay of luddites out there, I talk on my cell phone while driving, though I agree it is not a good idea to attempt to solve all the world's problems while weaving in and out of Mack Avenue traffic.

Worse, I haven't always remembered to turn my phone off at times when I should. Although I've pretended that it's not my purse that appears to be playing a Toby Keith song during the vows at someone's wedding, I'm not sure I fooled anyone.

I had a "portable" phone before portable phones were cool, kids. They were called car phones and weighed about 10 pounds. It was plugged into a special adapter on the cigarette lighter and cost $1 a minute to use.

No matter how often I instructed my children to call only when the house was on fire, they apparently considered their brother calling them a butthead an emergency of equal stature. I spent a hefty portion of their college fund settling petty arguments.

Those cumbersome phones were the beginning of the instant communication phenomena that placed all of us at the beck and call of employers, children and mothers-in-law.

Technology being what it is, the cost of chatter fell in direct correlation to the size of the battery required. Cell phones replaced car phones, conversations became longer and we all, for better or worse, became more connected.

So see, I'm not anti-cell phone in the least.

I am anti being forced to listen to conversations that really should be private. And let's be honest, that's about 99% of all cell phone calls. Any conversation that goes beyond "sure, I'll be happy to pick up milk on the way home," should be followed with, "Let me step outside so we can talkÖ"

When did it become acceptable to talk about your cousin's best friend's sister-in-law's roommate loud enough for an entire restaurant to know that her bunion surgery didn't go well, but she's still considering running off with her ski instructor? Or worse, to be forced to listen to every last detail of a perfect stranger's recent bout of food poisoning?

Have people become so self-absorbed and egotistical that they believe what they have to say is so worthy of public consumption and so important it needs to be shared with everyone unlucky enough to be within earshot?

When did we become so rude that we now find it acceptable to completely ignore a store clerk who is waiting on us to dish the latest dirt on a former classmate who wore a really ugly dress to prom in 1989?

Please, just hang up, pay the clerk and call your fellow gossiper back when you get home, if you can remember where you live. It's been my experience that people who can remember what someone else wore to a dance more than 25 years ago has problems with basic life skills, like simple manners and finding their way home.

What could be the absolute end of mankind as we know it would be the decision to allow cell phone use on airplanes. Why would anyone think that is a good idea?

Can you imagine anything worse than being locked in an aluminum cylinder while sitting next to a guy who's attempting to corner the market on used widgets while using words that would make George Carlin blush? Is there a reason people can't go without a phone for a two or three hour plane flight?

If everything someone does is so important that they need to stay connected even at 30,000 feet, perhaps its best they not leave the ground at all.

Or sit next to me.

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