Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Hard Cell

While watching a rerun of the 1970s television hit The Rockford Files recently, I noted my all-time favorite PI pulling his Pontiac Firebird over to place a call at a street corner pay phone. He didn't reach his intended party, completing a then commonplace fruitless endeavor. It was ring, ring, ring, and no answering machine. I thought: How annoying this scenario must have been to folks on the run back then—having first to locate a telephone, and then assuming the risk that the callee might be unavailable or, worse still, getting a busy signal.

But that’s just the way it was—and not very long ago in the scheme of things. Before the cell phone, we weren’t always a phone call away. We couldn’t be reached every single moment of every single day in virtually any location. Actually, this separation had its benefits and was more in tune with the nature of the beast.

Notably in emergency situations, and when timely communications are in order, the accessibility of cell phones have their place. But they are also dangerous devices, and I’m not speaking of future brain cancer possibilities or any such thing. It’s that they have this uncanny knack of reducing the whole sorry lot of us to narcissistic, oblivious fools, communicating with one another when silence would very definitely be golden.

Absurdly loud cell phone jingles and personal cell phone conversations on the street, in bank ATM vestibules, and on supermarket checkout lines is a crime against humanity. The original pay phones were ensconced in soundproof booths for good reason. Once upon a time it was felt that we the people desired privacy when we spoke on the telephone. Our private business and business business, too, were none of other people’s business. The cell phone erects no such barriers and devalues privacy. I fear that a human race of monsters has been spawned who cannot in the least appreciate how nonsensical, rude, and crude the preponderance of their yakking on these devices is. Unlimited minutes—the two most frightening words in the English language today. Over and out.

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