Cell-ulitis, or, Can You Hear Me Now? | May 2006


Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? What’s that? No, I can’t hear you either. Oh great. No, the reception here is terrible. What’s that? You’ll just send it to me via e-mail? That’s great. What? Oh, via e-mail. I said “Oh, via e-mail.” Okay, ready to write? I said “Ready to write?” Okay, here it is: ____hu____twit.com. What? You only heard “twit.com?” $%#* cell phone! I said send it to me via e-mail. %^*$#$, we can put a man on the moon but we can’t get a*$@#@ cell phone to work! What’s that? You heard the “%^*$#$” and the “*$@#@” but nothing else? That $*@#%^ figures!

Okay, _____ your hand __ ___ have _ cell __one.

If you have a cell phone, then you probably understood that last sentence (“Okay, raise your hand if you have a cell phone”). Not in the sense that you knew every word I was trying to say, but in the sense that that’s how most cell phones work (or rather, DON’T work). (You can put your hand down now, quit being a smart aleck).

Few things in modern life aggravate us as much as we depend on them, the way cell phones do (well, maybe driving comes close here in Miami).

So said a recent poll that found while more than two-thirds of Americans would find life difficult without their cell phones, nearly a quarter say more people than they’d like try to get in touch with them specifically because they know they have a cell phone.

As far as I’m concerned, a cell phone only has three good uses, and they’re all for calls YOU make:

1-You’re tired, headed home from work and in the mood for some Chinese food. So you use your cell phone to call a take-out place along your route and you pick up your order on the way home.

2-You or someone else has an emergency and the only phone available is your cell phone.

3-Free long distance calls!

That’s it. Absent those three (admittedly good) reasons, a cell phone is nothing but a nuisance, an electronic leash, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Need any proof? Try going to a movie. Yes, even if you take in an early show, and even if there is only one other group of people in the theater besides yourself and whomever is accompanying you, you can bet the film you were so intently enjoying will be interrupted by the annoying ring of someone’s cell phone. Compounding this are those idiots who insist on carrying on their conversations in the theater, usually in a voice loud enough to rival the theater’s megawatt sound system.

“Hello? Hey, what’s up? Oh, nothing, I’m just at the theater watching a movie.”

Yes, you moron, and so were the rest of us until your #*%$@#$@ cell phone rang! Moments like these make you wonder if “cell-phone rage” would hold up in court as a valid defense.

One thing many people find annoying, and the poll I noted before mentions this, is people using their cell phones in public. Hypocritically enough, those polled said they found it annoying when OTHER people did this–to the tune of 82 percent of poll respondents–but not when THEY did it (only eight percent admitted their own use of a cell phone could be considered “rude” sometimes).

I’m more forgiving on this count (depending on the circumstances, of course). I mean, people may seem a little foolish walking around a mall or at a restaurant carrying on a conversation on their cell phones. But at least they’re not in a position where either they’re interrupting a movie, play or concert, nor are they endangering others by driving while on the cell phone.

Driving while talking on the cell phone is a big issue. I’ll admit I do it, but rarely (by “rarely,” I mean I rarely talk on the cell phone while driving, not that I rarely admit to doing something wrong!). And usually only something very brief. Most of the time, I won’t answer–that’s what voice mail’s for as far as I’m concerned. And everyone who knows me knows that I will not engage in long conversations while driving. They’ll just have to wait until I can call them back. I don’t feel comfortable phoning while driving: it’s dangerous enough to drive in Miami when you’re 100 percent focused on the job, let alone when you’re distracted.

Contrast that attitude with the 24 percent from the poll who feel compelled to answer their cell phones every time it rings–even if it interrupts a meeting or a meal. I can promise you, I am NOT one of them. I’m not shy about using my voice mail–or forcing my callers to use it. And I’ll do that under any circumstances, whether I’m driving or not.

It’s funny: as I write this on my laptop, on the Metrorail, a young lady is arguing with someone on her cell phone. She’s a little loud and I can hear what she’s saying. Nevertheless, I don’t understand how people can get angry with someone like her, especially as there are two women a few seats in front of me who are carrying on a rather loud conversation themselves, sans cell phones. At least the young lady on the phone is speaking English (sprinkled with a few choice profanities). The conversing ladies are speaking a language I couldn’t identify for a while (and I know a few) but now realize is Portuguese.

I bring up the language issue not because of the long-standing and well-known language issue in Miami, nor because of the recent and related buzz around the country regarding immigration (and immigrants who speak mostly Spanish). No, I bring it up because, well, I’m ashamed to admit this but… if you can indeed understand what a nearby cell phone user is saying, it could be entertaining. Let’s just say the young cell phone lady’s choice of words almost had me laughing. Thankfully, I appear to be preoccupied, typing away on my laptop.

If only you could hear her now. Oops, gotta go, my cell phone is ringing…