Friday, October 14, 2005

Cell Phone Addiction

Unlike many, I really remember when there were no cell phones. I even remember when there were no touch-tone phones and there was a wire connecting the handset to the phone body. I'll go even a step farther: I was, more than once in my youth, in a town in which you picked up the earpiece, turned a crank, waited for the operator who asked whom you were calling, then manually connected your wire to the plug of the phone of the person you were calling. Thus, the local operator always knew who was phoning whom. Cool, eh?

My first cell phone was a big, heavy thing I got in about 1993. It had a big battery pack that weighed about 4 pounds, and had a handle. You hooked the handset onto it or popped it loose to use it. The handset had the keypad, the earpiece and the mouthpiece, and had a wire to the battery pack. It wasn't worth lugging around unless I knew I'd need it.

Four phones later, I have one that fits in my shirt pocket. I absolutely refuse to buy one of those things you stick in your ear. If you have one of those, and unless you're in a business in which you have to be on the phone a lot, you're a cell phone addict. I maybe put 8-10 minutes a month on my phone.

The funniest phone addict moment I ever observed was a few years ago at Jerry's Famous Deli in Studio City. After we'd settled in and ordered, while waiting for the food, I found myself watching a young couple, apparently on a date, in nice casual evening clothes, each talking to someone else on a cell phone while their food cooled and congealed slowly in front of them.

I've watched mothers ignoring their children while talking on the phone. I've wondered whether to dare to pass a car on the freeway--driving slowly and erratically while its driver talks on the phone, a file of papers draped over the steering wheel. I don't know how many times, while having coffee at Fred and Rob's, I've observed a cell phone addict walk into the coffee shop talking on a phone, try to order and pay for coffee while holding up the conversation on the phone, others in line making faces and comments at the rude individual. I once watched a young woman at the supermarket, cruising slowly down the aisles, picking up this item and that, reading each label to the person on the phone with her. I deeply pitied the poor slob who had to listen to all that and pretend he was interested.

Now, I'm not in favor of laws against using the phone while driving nor at most other times. That said, I feel bad for the poor, insecure fools who can't stand being alone, even while driving to and from work, and thinks (s)he must talk to someone. I'm unhappy at the way so many people seem unaware of their rudeness, talking on the phone while they ought to be giving attention to the person with them.

I like cell phones, but if I had a business and I caught an employee on the phone while (s)he should be dealing with a customer: fired for cause. I'd seriously consider jamming cell phones within the limits of my business.

Perhaps in time, a kind of rational cell phone etiquette may develop. I don't see it so far: not that many know the meaning of the word "etiquette."


Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

No comments: