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Has anyone else gotten irritated yet by the huge numbers of blatant
jerks who insist on using their cell phones while walking around in
public — outside, on sidewalks, street corners, in front of your house,
your apartment, anywhere else they feel like flaunting them — wherever
and whenever the impulse hits? And why does it seem so furtive, yet
exhibitionistic, like a public display of a private act, right, like
someone exposing themselves?

You know what I’m getting at. Long, boring, cryptic conversations in
your face, on your mind, under your nose, against your will. Auditory
rape, shall we say.

I was at my bank the other day, what they call The Private Banking
Lobby, neither private nor a lobby and barely banking. Actually it’s
more like a Confessional — a cramped little chamber scarcely bigger
than my bathroom, where, beside a small snaking line of customers,
sitting out on the floor, his briefcase open, papers spread out, was a
well-dressed guy of say 43, yakking away on a cell phone in full view of
the half-dozen captive people waiting for service.

Oblivious to the other customers’ growing annoyance, this yokel
continued to commandeer the space and conduct his commerce out loud like
that, in our shocked and appalled midst, happily blabbing and babbling
in snatches of jargon, having annexed that public room for his private
personal business purposes like a child smearing poop around in a
playpen.

“Hi, Charlotte,” I greet the regular teller, a pleasant woman
oblivious to the hijacking going on right under her nose. “I see
someone’s set up a satellite office here,” I say somewhat
diplomatically. She didn’t get it, that SHE, emissary of the bank, had
the power to tell this rude, boundaryless, selfish, self-centered zero
to pack up his marbles, pocket his little techno-ego trip, and go play
Clark Kent in a phone booth.

Introduced in the United States in 1983, currently there are
something like between 50 million and 80 million cell phones in use in
this country. Are all these people on Prozac, or what? When you realize
cell phones are increasing at a rate of 40,000 per day, I mean,
hey, it’s not just drug dealers availing themselves of this grand and
glorious opportunity to be in total touch 7-24.

First it was carphones. I admit when I originally had a boyfriend
with a beeper, who was hard-wired to his car phone, I nearly liked the
idea of me being close as his pocket, so to speak. But as the glow paled
– turned out he was some kind of criminal — so did the need to be in
constant communication. I began to value our silences, his absences,
more than our conversations.

I shudder to think how car phones have influenced the accident rate
– it’s still not a category of police information — so no one has yet
been charged with these transgressions:

  • Driving Through An Argument.

  • Driving During Phone Sex.

  • Driving While Closing A Deal.

  • Driving Through An Intersection, Distracted By Laughing Your Head Off
    While Listening To Howard Stern Tell Yet Another Horribly Minimalist
    Beastly Joke.

Remember all the feeble cracks we used to make about high-power
people getting phone calls mid-meal at restaurants? So the maitre d’
would bring a Hollywood-style telephone over to the table, with a
suitably long extension cord, and all the peons would be impressed as
Massa showed them how important he thinks he is. (OK, sometimes the
CEO-types would be chicks.)

Well, multiply that by a factor that feels like 10, and we have the
explosion of cell phones everywhere, a cultural pollutant, a social
nuisance, and a royal pain bordering on a plague.

Why do I hate them so much? Do your business inside, please? Can’t
you wait? If one of the signs of adult behavior is the ability to defer
gratification, then cell phones legitimize or at least symbolize a
society’s impatience with itself. No, apparently you can’t wait.

These flippy pieces of plastic have forever changed where and when
and how we talk to each other, and why.

Worst case scenario: imagine a cult-leader at poolside,
choreographing a mass suicide over a cell phone.

If not that, then a cell phone conference between a guy and his
10-year-old son’s soccer coach in the middle of a busy city sidewalk
during morning rush-hour, while you trail behind, a hopelessly trapped
party to the inanity.

Or, a woman booking a hairdresser appointment via her cell phone
while at the supermarket deli counter standing in line for her rare
roast beef to be sliced.

Or cell phone convo with a guy’s broker about that fabulous Internet
IPO, in a rest-room pit stop, at the urinal.

In motion, these suckers are dangerous.
Cell phones and driving definitely make a deadly mix, says the Cellular
Phone Information Center of Insurance Online. “With cellular phone
popularity reaching new heights, more and more drivers are using their
commute time to conduct business and personal affairs on their cell
phones. It’s a great way to make use of the time, but there is a dark
side: Dialing, discussing and doing deals all affect your ability to
properly respond to typical road hazards — let alone challenging
driving situations.”

How can these contraptions NOT increase driver distraction?
Prevention Magazine found that 85 percent of cellular telephone users
drive and phone at least occasionally. The National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration encourages states with reckless and inattentive
driving laws to apply them to cell phone use.
While a 1996 Rochester study found that folks with car phones run a 34
percent higher risk of having an accident, the Cellular
Telecommunications Industry Association naturally dismissed the evidence
as “limited and flawed.” Yet other countries including Italy, Brazil,
Israel, and some Australian states have outlawed using cell phones while
driving.

Here are some car phone safety suggestions from Cellular
Telecommunication Industry Association:

  • Do not engage in distracting conversations. Stressful or emotional
    conversations while you are behind the wheel are stupid and dangerous.
    Make people you are talking with aware you are driving and if necessary,
    suspend phone conversations which have the potential to divert your
    attention from the road.

  • End conversations during hazardous driving conditions so you can pay
    attention to the road. Hang up. Terminate calls during heavy traffic or
    hazardous weather conditions. Rain, sleet, snow and ice can be tricky,
    but so is heavy traffic. As a driver, your first responsibility is
    driving, not talking on the telephone.

  • Pay attention to the road. Do not take notes or look up phone numbers
    while driving. If you’re flipping through an address book or bunch of
    business cards while driving, or writing a “to do” list, then you’re
    neglecting to watch where you are going. Not paying attention to nearby
    vehicles could get you killed.

  • Dial sensibly and assess the traffic. If you are compelled to chatter
    in your car, please place calls when the car isn’t moving or before
    pulling into traffic. Plan calls before you begin your trip, or dial
    while stopped at a stop sign, red light or otherwise stationary. Always
    check the road and your mirrors.

But there’s something perhaps even more insidious than safety risks
posed by cell phones. Huge numbers of Americans continue to ignore
possible health hazards posed by these digital telephones, which might
be much more than a mere urban legend.
Massachusetts environmental engineer Jon Campbell’s Toxic Alert on
the Web
raises the issue, ” Do Cellular
Phones Cause Brain Cancer”?

“There ‘s been anecdotal evidence for several years associating use
of cellular phones, and other sources of electromagnetic radiation in
the microwave region of the spectrum, with brain cancers and other
cancers,” Campbell writes. “From police officers who used radar guns to
heavy users of cellular phones who have contracted cancer, there’s
mounting evidence that exposure to this kind of electromagnetic
radiation may not be as safe as advertised.”

Small wonder. “… Until pocket phones were invented, people tended
not to put microwave transmitters next to their skulls,” observed Dan
Rosenbaum, editor of Mobile Office magazine.

Since 1993, several inconclusive lawsuits have alleged links between
cellular telephones and brain cancer. David Reynard of Florida — who
guested on Larry King Live after filing a 1993 suit claiming his late
wife’s brain cancer was caused or accelerated by cell phone use –
received massive media coverage, according to the website of the
Brain Tumor Society: “Within weeks
the news broke that two high-profile corporate CEOs, who may have been
assumed to be heavy cellular phone users, were diagnosed with brain
cancer. This coincidence may have helped solidify the cell phone-brain
cancer link in the public’s imagination: scientist Nancy Shelton has
noted that events which occur closely together in time are often
perceived as causally related. Cell phone sales quickly declined and
stock prices fell by 17 percent.”

Nevertheless, not everyone is convinced this brain cancer-cell phone
link is spurious or specious. Those seeking a path to alternative
healing will IMMEDIATELY toss their cell phones into the trash and
perhaps check out Essiac, the
highly regarded natural holistic herbal tea from Canada, consisting of
Burdock Root, Sheep Sorrel, Rhubarb Root, and Slippery Elm Bark,
originally found among the Ojibway tribe in 1922, long before the Cell
Phone Nuisance Threat took root. Forewarned, as my mom used to say, is
forearmed.

And why is it inevitably, the loudest people often have the least to
say? What was it my dad always told us? “Empty barrels make the loudest
noise.”

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