Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ubiquitous Cell Phone

What is it about cell phones? And in seeing them put to use in every conceivable fashion as I go through my day, I can’t help but wonder, “HOW did we ever possibly survive without them?”

I’ll state for the record right now that I fully appreciate and use them for their convenience … not only as a communication device but as a calendar, calculator, alarm, stop watch (and I really have used that function on mine) and clock, to name a few. The next advance of web access and gps functions certainly lend to their value. My question and curiosity surrounds the seeming need for some folks to talk on them incessantly. I mean really, have you ever listened in on someone’s conversation only to determine in five seconds that it was so much blather? And I’ve really got to wonder if the recipient of the call is thinking the same thing.

If you’re in the grocery store and need to verify your list or check the status of an item in your pantry, go ahead and make the call. If you’re running late or will be delayed, go ahead and make the call. If you decided to order take out on your way home, go ahead and make the call. If you’re just calling to chat, I’d say make the call as long as you’re not: driving, walking in a crowded store, standing in line for any reason, within earshot of others who have absolutely no interest in your conversation, or participating in any activity that requires a modicum of your attention.

I believe I’m not the only one who gets a little annoyed when chatting cell phone users block store aisles, hold up the line, fail to look both ways as a pedestrian, mishandle a turn while driving because one hand’s on the phone, or exhibit any other rude, inattention-driven activity. It’s more annoying when it’s a disruption of solitude and concentration. There are certain places where and certain situations in which a ringing cell phone is, in my book, just this side of a cardinal sin. Church, for instance. Have we so abdicated decent manners that preachers and church bulletins have to remind us to turn cell phones off?

I was lucky enough to view the Grand Canyon from the North Rim recently. My appreciation of its grandeur and all that’s spectacular about our natural world was disrupted in less than two minutes by, you guessed it, a ringing phone… and an irritating ring tone at that. I’m happy to report that I was able to curtail my urge to grab the phone and heave it as far into the canyon as I could… what with littering and all.

I’m not comfortable using a cell phone in public, at least not within earshot of perfect strangers. Maybe I’m not that chatty. Verbose, yes; chatty, no. Besides, my personal business is just that. I was recently in the toothpaste aisle and could clearly overhear the conversation of a woman on a cell phone near me. I was stunned at the incredibly personal details she was discussing about a legal case in which she was involved. I admit: I continued staring at toothpaste and simply eavesdropped. When my significant other found me and asked what was taking so long, I nodded my head toward the woman and said, “Sssshhh. I’m listening. I think she’s about to reveal where they hid the body….”

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